What Satan Did to Peter: Sifting

“The Wiles of the Devil” series (post #11)

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.” (Luke 22:31, N.K.J.V.)

The Jews of ancient Israel were well acquainted with sifting. It was the last step in producing usable wheat that could be ground into flour. Step 1 was planting the wheat. Step 2 was harvesting the crop. For step 3, the harvested wheat stalks were taken for threshing to a site known as a “threshing floor.” A threshing floor was a flat area of hard dirt or rock where freshly harvested wheat could be piled. Such sites were always located on hilltops.

At the threshing floor, the wheat stalks were beaten or trampled in order to loosen the inedible chaff from the pure wheat. For smaller operations, workers simply beat the wheat with a tool. For larger operations, cows, donkeys, or oxen were employed to walk in circles over the stalks (Deuteronomy 25:4). Some farmers even owned a sled-type device that had pieces of metal or stone set into the bottom of it (Isaiah 41:15). This device was pulled by an animal across the wheat stalks over and over again to speed up the work.

The threshing was followed by step 4, the winnowing. The farmer used a winnowing fork (something akin to our pitchfork) or winnowing shovel (Isaiah 30:24) to gather the stalk remains off the ground and throw them up into the air so the wind could blow away the chaff (Jeremiah 13:24). The usable grain fell back to the earth and was collected.

Now the wheat was ready to be sifted to further purify it by removing the remaining chaff as well as the dust, dirt, and pebbles the wheat had picked up from the ground. This sifting was done by use of a sieve. A sieve was a round and somewhat large filtering device, usually two to three feet in diameter. Its sides were made of wood and its bottom was made of woven reeds, woven grasses, or woven wood. After placing a small amount of wheat into the sieve, the worker violently shook the sieve to create the sifting dynamic. Consequently, the good part of the wheat collected itself in the bottom center of the sieve.

Jesus warned Peter that Satan had asked for permission (and been granted it) to sift Peter like wheat. That meant that Satan was about to shake Peter violently. Of course we know how this shaking soon manifested itself. Jesus was arrested and Peter ended up denying knowing Him three times that same night (Luke 22:47-62). Peter, consider yourself sifted.

A good question is: Why would God allow Satan to do such a thing to Peter? A good answer is: God knew that the sifting would remove the imperfections from Peter’s faith. The story is one of multiple passages in which God allows Satan to do bad in order that God can bring good from it. It is Romans 8:28 in action even before the verse was written:

And we know that all things (including Satan’s sifting of Peter) work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, N.K.J.V.)

The Peter that came out of the sifting was a broken man. After his third denial of Jesus, he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:62). I wonder if he had forgotten the promise that Jesus had made him regarding the sifting. Jesus had said, “But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren (Luke 22:32, N.K.J.V.). That promise told Peter three things. First, even though his faith would be shaken, it wouldn’t fail. Second, ultimately he would return to Jesus. Third, Jesus would use the now sifted Peter to strengthen other believers.

Several commentators note that the Greek word translated as “you” in Luke 22:32 is plural. This leads to the idea that Satan had asked for permission to sift all of the apostles, not just Peter. It also indicates that Peter’s experience with Satan wasn’t unique. The other ten apostles, minus Judas Iscariot, surely had their faith violently shaken as well by Christ’s arrest, crucifixion, and burial. This explains why not one of them expected Jesus to resurrect on that third morning following His death. They truly believed that the whole “Jesus movement” of which they had been a part for three years was as dead as Jesus’ lifeless corpse lying in the tomb.

But does God still grant Satan permission to sift believers today? Oh, I’m sure that He does. As a matter of fact, I’m convinced that I myself have been sifted. I won’t go into all the details, but suffice is to say that a few years back Satan shook me and my family violently by way of a series of events that left us as demoralized as Peter was following his denials. It was enough to destroy our faith, but Jesus must have prayed for us because we stuck with Him through it all.

And did the experience further purify our wheat and make us better servants of Christ? I have to admit that it did. It gave us a crash course in how Satan uses people to get his work done. It opened our eyes to just how much sway Satan has over worldly situations. It showed us just how differently the committed Christian thinks and operates from the lost person or the carnal Christian. It definitely made us better soldiers in the ongoing war between Satan and God because it gave us firsthand battlefield experience fighting the devil.

I say all this to encourage any Christian who suspects that he or she is either currently being sifted by Satan or has been sifted by him. Being sifted is never pleasant, and you won’t come out of it the same person you were going in, but the good news is that you’ll come out of it better. You’ll be more pure, more refined, and more free of spiritual contaminants. As such, you’ll be better equipped and better experienced to serve Christ and be a good soldier in His army. Like Peter, you’ll be able to use your sifting to strengthen, encourage, and instruct your fellow Christians. That’s another piece of good that God brings out of it. You see, sifting isn’t something for which you should volunteer, but if it does happen to you, you can rest in the knowledge that God will use it not only to help you but also to help others through you.

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What Satan Did to Judas: Possession

“The Wiles of the Devil” series (post #10)

Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. (Luke 22:3, N.K.J.V.)

There are scores of Bible stories that center around demon possession. There are only two, though, in which Satan himself does the bodily possessing. In the rest of the stories, it’s always some other fallen angel (demon, unclean spirit) or group of them that is responsible for the possession.

First, Satan literally entered into the body of the serpent in the garden of Eden. That’s how the serpent could have a conversation with Eve. Since the serpent was “more cunning” (Genesis 3:1, N.K.J.V.) than any of the other creatures, it served as the perfect vessel for the fallen angel that was more cunning than any of the other fallen angels. By the way, if you think a fallen angel can’t possess an animal, you need to read the story in which Jesus exorcises a group of demons from a man and allows them to enter into a herd of swine (Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; and Luke 8:26-39).

Second, Satan literally entered into the body of Judas Iscariot. This is the clear teaching of not only Luke 22:3 but also John 13:27. Satan possessed Judas during the so-called “Last Supper” that Jesus shared with His chosen 12 the last night of His earthly life. Jesus recognized the possession as soon as it happened and immediately said to Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly” (John 13:27, N.I.V.). Judas then left the table and headed out to complete his prearranged deal with the Jewish religious authorities to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16).

Sometimes people ask, “If Judas was a believer, why did God allow Satan to possess him?” The answer is, Judas was never a believer. In John 6:70, Jesus says to His chosen 12, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” That one was Judas Iscariot (John 6:71). In John 17:12, Jesus refers to him as “the son of perdition” (N.K.J.V.), a description that means “the one doomed to destruction.” Also, in Matthew 26:24, Jesus says, “…woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (N.K.J.V.).

But wasn’t Judas personally chosen by Jesus to be an apostle? Yes (Luke 6:12-16). Wasn’t he given the responsibility of carrying the money for Jesus and the group? Yes (John 13:29). Wasn’t he empowered by Jesus to preach, cast out demons, and heal all kinds of sicknesses and diseases? Yes (Matthew 10:1-42). And yet, remarkably, he was never a true believer. He tipped his spiritual hand a bit when he complained about the financial waste of Mary, Lazarus’ sister, anointing Jesus’ feet with an expensive perfume (John 12:1-5). We also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that he struck his deal to betray Jesus before Satan possessed him (Matthew 26:14-16).

I’ve taken the time to prove that Judas was never saved because I don’t want any authentic Christian to live in fear that he or she might somehow end up demon possessed. 1 Corinthians 6:19 refers to the Christian’s body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 John 4:4 says that greater is He (God the Holy Spirit) who is in the Christian than he (Satan) who is in the world. Ephesians 4:30 informs us that the indwelling Holy Spirit seals the Christian for the day of redemption.

Continuing the theme, Colossians 1:13 asserts that God has delivered the Christian from the power of darkness. Romans 8:35-39 explains that nothing can separate the Christian from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and verse 38 of that passage specifically names “angels, “principalities,” and “powers” as part of that nothing. Finally, 1 John 2:13 teaches that Christians have overcome the evil one. All of these passages can be used as proof texts to show that the genuine believer in Christ can never be possessed by Satan or any other fallen angel.

Still, though, we do need to be aware that demon possession is a tool that Satan has in his toolbox. And, yes, demon possession still takes place today. If it doesn’t seem as prevalent today as it did in Jesus’ day, perhaps the reason is simply that we don’t have Jesus walking this earth to spot all the cases. Certainly the same number of demons are out there. They even have a larger population with which to work. So why wouldn’t demons still possess people today? What’s to stop them?

Christian, what you and I should learn from the possession of Judas Iscariot is that someone can have religion down pat and seem to be an honest-to-goodness Christian and yet be lost. Even more than being lost, that person can actually be demon possessed. As a matter of fact, I am of the opinion that we would be shocked to learn just how many demon possessed people attend church regularly, serve on church staffs, and even do ministry.

Don’t get the idea that every demon possessed person is running around like a lunatic, carrying a gun, about to carry out some horrific act that will make the evening news. If we think about it from Satan’s point of view, we realize that him taking every demon possessed person down to such a lowly state really doesn’t suit his purposes. Oftentimes he can get more done by keeping the person “respectable” and using him or her to do work that is not nearly as openly obvious but just as damaging to the cause of Christ.

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“Christian Verses” Podcast: Romans 15:4

The latest podcast is the second in the series on the word of God. For this one, Malcolm Woody and I use Romans 15:4 to discuss how simply reading the Bible can provide the Christian with endurance, encouragement, and hope. So, Christian, if you are lacking a bit in any of those areas today, the 20-minute discussion can be a real blessing to you. Here’s the link:

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What Satan Did to the Jewish Woman: Affliction

“The Wiles of the Devil” series: (post #9)

“So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound — think of it — for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” (Luke 13:16, N.K.J.V.)

Can you imagine having to remain stooped over for eighteen years because you couldn’t straighten your back? Welcome to the life of the unnamed Jewish woman of Luke 13:10-17. Luke is the only gospel writer who records her story, and surely it isn’t a coincidence that he was a physician.

Jesus is teaching in a synagogue on a Sabbath day, and this woman is in attendance. Let me just stop right there and ask, “If you had spent the last eighteen years stooped over because of a debilitating physical condition, would you still go to church?” I dare say that most of us wouldn’t, and yet there she is, present and accounted for on the Sabbath.

I suppose it’s possible that she only attended that day because she knew that Jesus was going to be there, but it’s more likely that she was there every Sabbath. I say that because even Jesus made a point of describing her as “a daughter of Abraham.” You see, she was a devout Jew, and devout Jews regularly attended synagogue. Also, it should be noted that the woman didn’t ask Jesus to heal her. The healing only took place when He saw her and called her to Himself. She certainly didn’t attend that day with the intention of badgering Jesus until He cured her.

Verse 11 informs us that her condition was “a sickness caused by a spirit” (N.A.S.V.). That means that her physical affliction wasn’t caused by hereditary factors, lifestyle choices, an accident, or bad luck. It was caused by a fallen angel (a demon) that Satan had permanently assigned to her 24 hours a day, seven days a week to prevent her from being able to stand erect. You talk about scary!

You might ask, “But does Satan (either personally or working through his army of fellow fallen angels) really have the power to cause physical affliction and disease?” The Bible’s answer is, YES. Consider these passages:

  • Satan afflicted Job with painful boils that covered him from the top of his head to the soles of his feet (Job 2:7).
  • A demon (a fallen angel, a spirit) afflicted a boy who was brought to Jesus. Ever since the boy’s childhood the demon had come and gone inside him, periodically taking possession of him and then departing him after a while. Whenever the demon was possessing the boy, the demon would create a muteness in him and cause him to foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth, fall on the ground stiff, suffer epileptic seizures, and sometimes plunge himself into fire and water (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-20; and Luke 9:37-42).
  • Jesus gave His chosen 12 apostles the power to cast out unclean spirits (demons) and heal all kinds of sicknesses and diseases (Matthew 10:1,8). Note the close relationship between demons, sicknesses, and diseases. This same parallel was on display in Jesus’ healing and exorcism ministry (Luke 6:17-19; Acts 10:38).

Still, with all this in mind, we must not go to the extreme of thinking that every sickness, disease, and affliction is caused by Satan. Many of them are simply the byproduct of the aging process. Others are the result of our own shortcomings in regards to diet, exercise, and taking good care of ourselves.

And then there are those sicknesses, diseases, and ailments that are caused directly by God to accomplish His purposes. In Exodus 4:11, God says that He is the one who makes the mute, the deaf, and the blind. In John 9:1-3, Jesus says that a certain man was born blind from birth so that the works of God should be revealed in that man. It was God who struck Miriam with leprosy (Numbers 12:1-10). He did the same thing to King Azariah, who was also known as Uzziah (2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:19-23). It was also God, working through an angel, who rendered Zacharias mute until the birth of Zacharias’ son, John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-23).

In the case of this Jewish woman, however, it was clearly Satan, working through one of his fallen angels, that was causing the affliction. It isn’t surprising then that Jesus laid His hands on her and healed her. Since Dr. Luke makes no mention of the demon spirit being cast out to create the healing, the indication is that the demon was simply tormenting the woman from the outside rather than actually indwelling her. If that was indeed the case, her condition was similar to the way Satan afflicted Job without actually possessing him.

Okay, so what lesson does this story teach us about the wiles of the devil? It teaches us that Satan does have the power to strike us with afflictions, sickness, and diseases that affect our physical body. Not every sniffle, sneeze, chill, spike in temperature, or form of cancer is caused by him, but we must be aware that he does have such arrows in his quiver. Furthermore, it doesn’t take a full-fledged demon possession for a person to be afflicted by Satan. The stories of Job and this Jewish woman prove that he can do a ton of damage to a person physically even from the outside.

And what should we do if we ever suspect that we are suffering from a condition that is somehow being caused by the devil? We should pray, pray, pray and ask God to help us. Recruiting others to help us pray wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. For that matter, neither would fasting (Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29).

The point is that such a situation is a battle ground for high-level spiritual warfare, and the battle can only be won through the power of God. Being a devout Jew couldn’t cure that woman’s condition. Faithfully attending synagogue couldn’t do it either. It took the power of God to cure it, and that’s what it will take in your life or mine if Satan ever strikes us with some kind of affliction, sickness, or disease that is especially designed for us.

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“Christian Verses” Podcast: Isaiah 40:8

The latest podcast is centered around Isaiah 40:8 and deals with the preservation of holy scripture. It’s one thing for the Bible’s words to be inspired by God and written down, but it’s another thing for those written words to be preserved as given down through the course of history. The basic question is: Can we trust that the words of the Bible we have today are the same as the words God originally gave? Malcolm and I answer this question in the podcast.

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What Satan Did to Jesus: Temptation

“The Wiles of the Devil” series: (post #8)

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1, N.K.J.V.)

Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus was tempted in all the ways that we are tempted. I take that to mean that He was tempted to lie, cheat, covet, steal, get drunk, seek revenge, act selfishly, worship false gods, commit sexual sin, murder, etc. Is there a Bible verse or story that showcases Him being tempted with each specific type of temptation? No. But Hebrews 4:15 still says what it says, so Jesus must have faced each type of temptation at least once in His lifetime.

What the Bible does give us in regards to Jesus being tempted is the famous story of Satan tempting Him in the Judean wilderness. That story is told in Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13, and it involves three distinct rounds of temptation. Luke’s order for the rounds differs from Matthew’s, but that isn’t uncommon for Luke. His writing style sometimes has him presenting his material topically or logically rather than chronologically. So let’s look at Christ’s three rounds of temptation using Matthew’s order.

Round 1: Satan comes to Jesus and says, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Matthew 4:3). This temptation is particularly appealing to Jesus at that moment because He has just completed a fast lasting forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:2). To say He is hungry would be a landmark understatement. Still, Jesus doesn’t yield to the temptation. He responds by quoting a portion of Deuteronomy 8:3: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”

Round 2: Playing off the fact that Jesus has just quoted scripture, Satan decides to quote some himself. He takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem and says, “If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” The first reference is from Psalm 91:11 and the second one is from Psalm 91:12. Jesus, in turn, responds by quoting a portion of Deuteronomy 6:16: “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”

Round 3: Just as Satan and Jesus were somehow miraculously transported from the Judean wilderness to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, they are next transported to the top of an exceedingly high mountain. There Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and says, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” And what is Jesus’ answer? One more time He references the book of Deuteronomy, this time loosely paraphrasing Deuteronomy 6:13-14 and 10:20: “Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'”

Now, there are all kinds of spiritual truths and principles that we can glean from this story, and so what I’d like to do here is list ten of them. Consider this list the conclusion to this post, and be sure to read each item carefully so that you can better understand not only this story but also how to resist the devil when he comes tempting you. Ready? Here we go.

  1. Satan’s temptations of Jesus were designed to reveal what kind of Messiah Jesus would be. Would He be self serving? Would He use His divine power to take the easy way out whenever a problem arose? Would He major on fame and minor on suffering? Most importantly, would He be willing to accept a throne that didn’t require Him to die on a cross?
  2. The three temptations fit neatly into the three categories that are named in 1 John 2:16. Those are “the lust of the flesh,” “the lust of the eyes,” and “the pride of life.” Jesus was tempted to fulfill the lust of the flesh by turning the stones into bread for Him to eat. He was tempted to fulfill the lust of the eyes by accepting the offer to be made ruler over all those kingdoms Satan showed Him. He was tempted to fulfill the pride of life by jumping down off the pinnacle of the temple and having angels rescue Him. Such a miracle performed in the midst of a temple crowd would have made Jesus famous at the very beginning of His ministry and garnered Him a massive following.
  3. Satan tempts us when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable. Forty days and nights of fasting made Jesus spiritually strong but physically weak. There are times in our lives when we are low physically, perhaps through sickness or perhaps through bodily neglect. That’s when Satan will place temptation in front of us. Then again, there are other times when we are low spiritually. He won’t give us a pass during those times either.
  4. The role that scripture plays in helping us resist Satan’s temptations cannot be overstated. Jesus didn’t perform a miracle or call for the help of angels to resist Satan. He did it by an inner determination to obey God the Father and by quoting scripture. So the next time you feel the tug of Satan’s temptation, quote a relevant passage of scripture to him.
  5. Satan himself knows how to use scripture. Satan has had thousands of years to study the Bible. For that matter, he’s been an active participant — a central character, we might say — in the Bible’s storyline. This means that he knows scripture better than you do. Because of this, you must be on guard against him twisting and distorting scripture in his efforts to convince you to do something you shouldn’t do.
  6. Since there is no single mountain from which all the world’s kingdoms can be seen, it’s possible that the mountain in question wasn’t literal. At any rate, it should be noted that when Satan offered Jesus all those kingdoms Jesus didn’t say, “They aren’t yours to give.” Jesus Himself called Satan “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31, John 16:11), and the apostle Paul called him “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4). How many people are right now enjoying “kingdoms” and blessings that Satan has given them because they have bowed down (either knowingly or unknowingly) to him and are doing his bidding? Furthermore, how many of those same people are foolishly attributing their success to God?
  7. It’s possible that Satan’s tempting of Jesus lasted for the entire 40 days and nights of Jesus’ fast and that the three rounds mentioned in scripture are only three of many. This potential interpretation stems from the fact that Luke says of Jesus, “…being tempted for forty days by the devil” (Luke 4:1, N.K.J.V.). That wording leads some commentators to conclude that Satan’s tempting played itself out over the whole scope of the 40 days and nights. Mark’s account might also be read that way: “And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan…” (Mark 1:13).
  8. Being tempted by Satan takes a lot out of you physically. Matthew and Mark both mention that angels came and ministered to Jesus following the temptation. If Jesus, in his human body, had to be ministered to after His bout with Satan, you’d better believe that you going up against Satan’s temptation will take something out of you physically as well.
  9. One detail that is unique to Mark’s account of Christ’s temptations involves wild beasts. Writing under the inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), Mark makes special mention that Jesus was “with the wild beasts” there in the Judean wilderness (Mark 1:13). Commentator William MacDonald floats the possibility that these animals are mentioned because they were energized by Satan to destroy Jesus. No one can say for sure why Mark mentions the wild beasts, but if nothing else it shows us that our temptations take place in a world that is dangerous. We don’t just have to do battle with Satan, we also have to do battle with a thousand other dangerous things that life throws at us.
  10. Even if you resist Satan’s temptation and cause him to leave you alone for a while, he will eventually come at you again. The most depressing part of Christ’s temptation is what Luke says in concluding his account of the story. He writes: “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13, N.K.J.V.). Oh, beware those opportune times! Could it be that right now you are experiencing one of those in your life? If you are, you can expect Satan’s temptation to come your way soon, if you aren’t already in the midst of it.
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What Satan Did to Joshua: Accusation

“The Wiles of the Devil” series (post #7)

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! May the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1-2, H.C.S.B.)

Zechariah was a prophet/priest who was born in Babylon during Israel’s seventy years of exile there. He joined the group of approximately 50,000 Jews (Ezra 2:64-67) who returned to Jerusalem around 538 B.C. in the wake of the decree for Israel’s release issued by the Persian ruler, Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4). That group of returning exiles was led by Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:1-2), who was the grandson of Israel’s former king, Jehoiachan. The group’s daunting task was to build a new temple in Jerusalem, the temple of Solomon having been destroyed by the Babylonians decades earlier.

The group got off to a good start by building a new altar. Then they finished laying the foundation for the new temple in 536 B.C. However, problems arose (some external, some internal) and the great work stalled for more than fifteen years (Ezra 4:1-24). Only when Zechariah and his fellow prophet Haggai were inspired by God to motivate the people to finish the temple did it get completed (Ezra 5:1-2).

The priesthood for the new temple was led by a High Priest named Joshua, the Joshua mentioned in our text verse. (No, this isn’t the famous Joshua who led Israel in its conquest of Canaan.) Whereas Zerubbabel was in charge of the civil leadership of the reconstituted Israel, Joshua the High Priest was in charge of the spiritual leadership. This is seen in the fact that the prophet Haggai described himself as “the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest” (Haggai 1:1).

The point of Zechariah’s vision is that Satan is bringing a formal accusation against Joshua. Joshua, in his role as High Priest, is serving as the representative of the entire group of Jews who have returned to Jerusalem, built a new temple, and established a new priesthood. Satan’s accusation is undoubtedly that this group isn’t spiritually qualified to be doing such things.

It’s as if Satan is saying, “Now c’mon God, how could this ragtag bunch of exiles from Babylon be the ones you’ve chosen to build a new temple and establish a new priesthood? After all, this is the same defiled gene pool that rebelled against you decades ago and caused you to allow the Babylonians to come in and carry them off as prisoners of war. Do you mean to tell me that you are going to bring this corrupted, morally impure group back under your protection and blessing?” And Joshua, standing there clothed in filthy garments, certainly looks “guilty as charged” concerning the accusation (Zechariah 3:3). The priestly garments of Israel’s High Priest were supposed to be holy and undefiled (Exodus 28:1-4).

The whole vision plays off the Mosaic law. According to that law, if one man brought an accusation of wrongdoing against another man, both men were to stand before the priests and judges and let the case be heard (Deuteronomy 19:16-21). By standing before the priests and judges the two men were in essence “standing before the Lord.” In such a hearing it was customary for the accuser to stand on the right side (Psalm 109:6).

You’ll notice that our text verse capitalizes the “A” in the word “Angel.” That indicates that the “Angel” in question is actually none other than Jesus making an Old Testament appearance. This explains how Satan and Joshua can be standing before the Angel of the Lord in verse 1 and have the Lord speak to Satan in verse 2 and render the verdict.

And what was that verdict? The Lord decided in favor of Joshua (and by implication Joshua’s fellow Jews). The Lord described Joshua (and by implication the 50,000 as a whole) as “a burning stick snatched from the fire.” The fire refers to the judgment manifested by the Babylonian captivity.

But the Lord didn’t stop there. He went on to instruct that Joshua’s filthy garments be removed and that he be reclothed with beautiful robes and a clean turban (Zechariah 3:4-5). Joshua’s new clothing was symbolic of the fact that the Lord had not only removed his iniquity and cleansed him personally but that the Lord had done the same thing for Israel (Zechariah 3:4). Then the Lord made wonderful promises to Joshua and Israel, promises that included the coming of the Messiah and extended into the glorious kingdom age when the Messiah will rule over all the earth (Zechariah 3:6-10).

Okay, so now let’s get back to the theme of our series and ask, “What does Zechariah’s vision teach us about the methods and strategies that Satan uses against us?” It teaches us that Satan is the master accuser who is quick to remind God of our spiritual faults and failures. It’s no wonder that in Revelation 12:10 he is called “the accuser of the brethren.”

Like Joshua, we Christians have stood before the Lord in the symbolically filthy garments of our sins and listened as Satan has accused us of being unworthy of the Lord’s blessings. But because of our saving belief in Jesus, the Lord has sided with us and replaced our filthy garments with “the garments of salvation” and “the robe of righteousness” described in Isaiah 61:10. Of course, this righteousness we wear is not our own; it is the righteousness of Jesus imputed to us. Romans 5:19 says that by Christ’s obedience “many will be made righteous,” and 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus was made to “…be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Along the same lines, Romans 3:21-22, Romans 4:13, and Philippians 3:7-11 teach that each Christian has the righteousness which is “from God through faith in Jesus.”

Christian, it is because of this imputed righteousness you have received from Jesus that you can successfully withstand any accusation that Satan hurls at you. Get it through your head that you no longer stand before God in the filthy garments of your sinful flesh. All of your sins, whatever they may be, have been forgiven by way of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the one who died on a Roman cross to pay your sin debt (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12-15; Acts 20:28; and Revelation 5:9-10).

Therefore, any time Satan hauls you into God’s court and accuses you of being a sinner who is undeserving of God’s blessings, you can rest in the knowledge that the fix is in because the Judge is on your side. He won’t render His verdict based upon the righteousness produced by your actions. Instead, He will render it based upon the righteousness produced by the sinless life and substitutionary death of Jesus. This makes any heavenly court date you have with Satan a slam dunk win for you. So don’t let the accuser of the brethren rob you of the deep-settled inner peace that salvation should provide.

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