Zechariah 3: 2-5
Romans 3: 21-25
Luke 15: 20-25
Luke 24: 49
This verse in Zechariah contains a beautiful expression - “I clothe thee with festival-robes”. I would like to speak on that, to give everyone a sense of God's desire for each of us to prove what it is to be clothed by God for His glory and satisfaction and delight. Each one of us could put ourselves into this passage of scripture. Jehovah is looking upon each individual, but so is Satan. Now there is no doubt from this passage who triumphs - God triumphs. God operates to change the total appearance of this person called Joshua. Joshua is standing before God there, clothed in filthy garments. God says: 'I want to clothe you in festival-robes.' What a blessing! What a gospel this is for you - for every one of us to realise initially that, as clothed and standing there in our sins, we are in filthy garments before God. God says to Satan as to Joshua, and as to every one of us in this room, “Jehovah rebuke thee!”. It is the effect of Satan and his power and influence on a person that he is clothed in filthy garments. Have you had some sense of that in your history? In the sight of God, the all-seeing eye of Jehovah, as He looks upon you and your history as away from God, you are numbered amongst those described in the scripture, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”. God is however looking upon you as an individual, and Satan is also looking upon the individual. God is really asserting that, 'I am going to change that person. I am going to secure that person for time and for eternity.' How wonderful that is! So He can say later on “Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” God is still like that. Do you have some sense that mercy has reached you? That you are a brand plucked from the fire? What a beautiful expression that is - is it not? Some of these expressions that come into the prophets are beautiful. We have referred to Isaiah today already and how many beautiful expressions there are that describe a condition and God's interest and care and desire for an individual. Think of Joshua standing there and God says, “Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” You think of that, the impending fire, and what really it is to be a brand plucked from the fire or (in New Testament language) a sinner saved by grace. God says, in effect, 'take away the filthy garments from off them'. That is the gospel! How is your sinful condition going to be met? You do not take off the filthy garments - it is a command from God - and God says, “Take away the filthy garments from off him”. How wonderful to come to that point when you grasp the value of the work of Jesus, and when you look to see that the God that we read of in Romans chapter 3 has been manifested in Jesus, and in the work of Christ; and how great and glorious it is, so that God is now presenting in the gospel the “righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ towards all”, and upon you - yes, “upon all those who believe”! How glorious that is. Are you a believer in the Lord Jesus? Have you got a sense of the precious work of Jesus and what it accomplished for you? You see it is God that has operated to deal with your condition and mine. We must ever remember that - and when we do it brings a touch of mercy into our souls knowing that we deserved nothing. “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love wherewith He loved us” (Eph 2: 4) has operated from His side and presented His well beloved Son, who “made by Himself the purification of sins”, Heb 1: 3. How glorious and full is the work of Jesus!
What a day it was, the day of atonement - in Leviticus 16. There came a day in the history of the children of Israel - one per year - when there was a day of atonement. It was distinctive because the high priest went in. He went in with the blood of the bullock - he went in in the virtue of the sin offering; he went in with his hands full of fragrant incense. He went in, anticipating the light and glory of the perfection of the offering of Jesus. What a day it must have been for the children of Israel; they waited for that day, the tenth day on the seventh month of every year. That day would come! They would wake up that day and all the tribes would consider: this is the day of atonement! This is the day when we are cleansed yearly from our sins. We speak now however in the gospel of a work that has been done forever. Yes, forever. Jesus has accomplished the work at Calvary's cross once. So we do not need to have a date on our calendar which says, 'this is the day of atonement'. Christ has accomplished the work once to the glory of God and for eternity - how wonderful that is!
And so what a day it was - I just want to draw on it, and expand on it. It describes the greatness of the perfection of Jesus. He who was without sin was the One who offered Himself spotless to God. Think of heaven looking on - what a moment it was for heaven. You think of the greatness and glory of the Father and of all that marked Him as He looked down on Jesus, and He comes to the day, one of the greatest days in the annals of time. It had been looked forward to through countless offerings - indeed thousands of offerings in the past dispensation. Then the day came in the history of time when the Lord Jesus Christ, God's beloved Son, went forth, condemned to death by man. He went forth, a crown of thorns placed upon Him, a purple robe put upon Him, and He moved from Pilate's judgment hall to Calvary. He had endured so much at the hands of men - scoffing, spitting, they struck His face, in an atmosphere of absolute hate. Do you not marvel at God's long-suffering? The God who could at any moment have consumed every one who dared to show such animosity to the One who was perfect and apart from sin. “Who, when reviled, reviled not again; when suffering, threatened not”, 1 Pet 2: 23. They took His clothes off Him - and He comes to Golgotha. There they crucified Him. They lifted Him up, hung Him on a tree, nailed His hands and nailed His feet. Love kept Him there, love for you and for me - that we may never stand before God in filthy garments. This was to be the basis of what was going to lead to you being clothed with festival robes. From the third hour then, to the sixth hour, Jesus endured at the hands of men. Mr Darby says, 'He suffered for righteousness, as a living Man, from men'. God looked on and surveyed the scene in a perfect assessment according to the righteousness of His holy throne.
But a greater moment was yet to take place. From the third hour to the sixth hour the Lord bore it all at the hands of men. His moral glory shone - if I may say simply - minute by minute. But the Lord Jesus knew there was more yet to come. From the sixth hour, darkness came over the whole land, and from the sixth hour to the ninth hour Jesus was made sin. Can you take that in? As Mr Darby said, ' He suffered for righteousness, as a living Man, from men; as a dying Saviour, He suffered from the hand of God for sin', Collected Writings vol 7 p165! How important as believers that we understand the importance of the third hour to the sixth hour; and then the sixth hour to the ninth hour when Jesus was made sin. “Him who knew not sin he has made sin for us”, 2 Cor 5: 21. Words fail to describe just what sin was as far as God was concerned. Think of the whole epitome of what characterised an administration under Satan being sin, and the effect of it is upon souls. Yet God has provided the basis in the sacrificial work of Jesus for its clearance and removal from His sight.
So from the sixth hour to the ninth hour there was no communion. He was the holy One. Mr Darby said - 'In the measure in which He knew holiness and love...He felt what it was to be made sin’, Letters vol 3 p195. The abandonment of Jesus was absolute. He was the One who could say, “Father, I know that Thou always hearest me”; the One who could earlier say, on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, Luke 23: 34.
Did thy God e'en then forsake Thee,
Hide His face from Thy deep need!
I point you to the work of Jesus in its completeness. How wonderful, how glorious it is! The preacher has the privilege of speaking about a perfect work. Men are incapable of anything totally perfect. We are not speaking about perfection according to man's judgment, but we are speaking about the perfection of a work according to God's judgment. The Lord Jesus at the ninth hour could cry, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Think of the depth of that cry. The Lord Jesus in His perfection committed in love to the divine will, in love fully offering Himself without spot to God, and in all of that consuming the judgment. You think of the cry going up (and remember there was darkness), uttered from the cross: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? … My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, Matt 27: 46.
Then He uttered another cry - a second cry goes up. Think of the greatness and glory of His expiring. What a wonderful matter the Lord Jesus coming into manhood, being such a glorious person, the One who upholds all things by the word of His power. What a matter it is that He went into death. The Lord of life lay in death. Not only had your sinful acts to be atoned for, but the very sin itself that characterises us in the first order of man had to be removed before God. Christ removes not only our sins but sin from before the sight of God. What a work!
So, He goes into death and, having died, the soldier pierces His side and “immediately there came out blood and water”, John, 19: 34. Precious blood of Jesus shed on Calvary's cross:
Precious, precious blood of Jesus,
Shed on Calvary!
Shed for rebels...
- shed for people clothed in filthy garments. 'Shed for sinners', and I trust we can all say, 'Shed for me' How precious it is, the work of Jesus.
This is not a theory. My eternal salvation and yours is not based on any theory. It is not based in any thesis that somebody has put together. We are dealing with the very core of Christian truth when we refer to the blessing of a soul through God giving a person faith to view that work, and see it is for them. God gives them faith. God has looked down on their history and would give them faith. What a gift!
The only way you will be blessed eternally is by faith in Christ. You believe in it for yourself. You are absolutely convicted as to the verity of it, and so nothing will ever shake you. I trust that you feel like that about the gospel - that nothing will ever shake you as to your faith in the person and work of the One who glorified God on Calvary's cross and laid the basis in His precious blood that has guaranteed you eternal blessing.
Faith is a wonderful gift! We come across people and we can have a conversation with them. People come in to the preaching and they go away... The secret is faith, faith from God. It has been described as being like when you are in a dark room, and it is all dark. Somebody puts the light on and the whole room becomes illuminated. That is faith for you. When everything lightens up and, all of a sudden, the whole matter of Christ's finished work, the value of His precious blood, becomes living, vital, wonderful and glorious to you! This is because you now believe it for yourself.
So Christ died and was buried. For three days and three nights He was in the heart of the earth, and God then gave testimony to His full acceptance of the work of Jesus by raising Him from amongst the dead. We speak of the righteousness of God in Romans chapter 3, and it is upon the believer. Think of God now clothing you and me in righteousness! Your righteousness? No. Because it would be as filthy garments. It would be as filthy rags. God says 'I am going to clothe you with my righteousness. It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ and it is towards all. The work is complete, I am presenting my Son.'
God is now offering you the wedding garment according to Matthew 22. You are to be clothed in it. As He says in effect to Joshua - 'I am going to clothe you with festival robes'. I would like to say to you that God wants to clothe you tonight with the wedding garment of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You say, 'What about my history?' Christ has removed it before God if you are a believer. You say, 'Will it never be brought up?' God has justified you in a risen Man.
I love that little incident that Mr Meek used to tell us about justification. It is about a little boy, a naughty boy, and his father took a stick and put a nail in it every time the little boy was naughty. So there were a number of nails on that stick. Then the boy came to his dad and says 'I am sorry, I am sorry'. So the father took out the nails from the wood. You may say, 'That is it finished'. But that little boy was still crying. And the father asks, 'What is wrong with you?' The boy replies 'You took away the nails but you left the marks'. Justification is complete. My history is removed before God. God has justified me in Christ. I trust everyone here, if you have not grasped that before, will accept it as a truth tonight. God would clothe you with the festival robe of justification in a risen Man for another world altogether.
I go on to Luke 15. What clothing this was - these are the festival robes of Luke 15, when the younger son returns. The hymn says, does it not -
Returning sons He kisses
And with the robe invests?
Did the younger son bring the wedding robe back? No. Did he bring the ring back? No. Did he bring the sandals back? No. The younger son came back destitute. He had spent everything. But he came back as a broken man. He longed to be back in the environment that he had left. But he went back in to the house clothed differently from the way in which he had left. He went out with the money, he went out full of exuberance - he went off. But when he came back - you think of the reception he got. Mr Stoney said, 'Love travels faster than necessity', vol 1 p27. Necessity brought the younger son back, but love was there first in the father running, when he saw him coming back. The father is ready at that point to invest him in festival robes. So he comes back; and what has he to say? “I have sinned against heaven and before thee; I am no longer worthy to be called thy son”, Luke 15: 21. I do not think it was just what he said. The father looked at him and knew that he meant it. He knew he meant it. There is a big thing in that - in repentance. It is not the words themselves, it is what lies behind them. God sees what lies behind what you say. And so repentance is a deep matter. You may confess your sins, but God looks behind and says 'You really are convicted about it.' You deserve judgment. You are claiming mercy from God and He is prepared to grant you it in Christ. So he says “bring out the best robe and clothe him in it”. Would it not fit perfectly? The younger son never looked better than when he stood there before the father with the best robe on. Clothed from head to foot, you may say, in festival garments, with a ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet.
Have you had some sense of God investing you with the best robe? What is the best robe? It is Christ according to the greatness of what He means to the Father. What great things these are. So you can stand up and have a part in the service of God and give thanks to the Father for sonship, knowing that you have been clothed in the best robe. You are clothed in Christ, in all the worth, the glorious worth of Christ.
“Bring out the best robe and clothe him in it.” Not just put him in it. 'Clothe' means, I think, that it fits. When you get a suit, a jacket, or whatever, it clothes you. It fits you. This is wonderful. Do you get some sense of the divine presence? It embraces you; it is glorious in that sense. I think that is when the truth has moved more than just into your mind but it has reached into your inwards and your affections. You look on yourself now as a son.
Lastly just to touch on another aspect. One of the blessings of the gospel is to be clothed with the Holy Spirit. Christ is glorified and the truth is brought out. The Lord Jesus is saying to the disciples that He is going away but that He wants them to receive the Holy Spirit and be clothed with power from on high. Not just the acknowledgment of the truth about the Holy Spirit objectively, but these souls, a hundred and twenty in the upper room - literally the Holy Spirit sat upon each one of them, Acts 2: 3. We are just a small company here. Compare it to a hundred and twenty souls in the upper room, the day of Pentecost approaching. You think of all of that happening, and the Holy Spirit coming there, and every one of these souls had some sense of the reception of the Holy Spirit of God. What a blessing! Christ in glory, God here in the Spirit indwelling souls. Previously, they were clothed in filthy garments but now they are redeemed by the precious work of Jesus, and justified in a risen Man. We have thought of the great truth of sonship, and the greatness and glory of it all. But do we enjoy it all? Further, we need to be clothed with the Holy Spirit. Let us all not just know of the reception of the Holy Spirit but have the enjoyment and present experience of His power. You are clothed with power from on high. You say - power. John would tell us, “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world”, 1 John 4: 4. The power is in two ways. Power for access Godward and power for confession before men, to overcome the flesh, to overcome the world and its influences as it would seek to drag you down again into a sinful condition. Satan would have his eye upon you. Satan has no answer in the believer to the present resource of the power of the Holy Spirit. That is something we all need to remember.
Well I just leave these thoughts - to be clothed with festival robes. Go home from the preaching tonight with some sense of having been clothed in festival robes.
For His Name’s sake.
Port Seton, Edinburgh
21st January 2007