John C Gray
Isaiah 61: 10
Zechariah 3: 1-5
Luke 15: 17-24; 24: 45-49
The population nowadays makes a great deal of clothing: it is a vast industry. The clothing industry provides for persons of all desires and types from the tramp that covers the countryside, who probably only has one or two changes of garments in his lifetime of tramping, to the people who want to be modern and dress themselves up to pay attention to themselves, to other people who go to business and think that they need to show that they are in business, to royalty, where you have got magnificent robes, some of them embedded with precious stones: a vast variety of different clothing, and people make a lot of it; people in the world spend a lot of money on clothes which may not appear very grand anyway.
But God is providing for a different kind of clothing. God is providing “garments of salvation”. He is taking away filthy garments of sin, and He is clothing them with “festival robes”, He is clothing them with “the best robe”, that is, Christ, and He is clothing them with the Holy Spirit – “power from on high”. These are the kinds of clothing that God is giving people. Now I am speaking about a moral clothing; it is not anything that you literally put on your shoulders. It is a great thing that Isaiah, the Old Testament evangelist speaks about: “the garments of salvation”. That is, there is a great result that comes from salvation; but then we have to see the way in which the salvation has been secured before we can get it. Isaiah speaks to these people about “the robe of righteousness”, and the bridegroom with his priestly turban, and the bride with her jewels. This means that God is preparing people to live with Him, to be with Him, not just to be in the ordinary course of things in the world, but to dwell with God, to dwell with Jesus.
I hope we all understand that it is very important that we know that salvation has been effected by the Lord Jesus. The last verse of Zechariah 2 says, “Let all flesh be silent before Jehovah; for he is risen up out of his holy habitation”. Think of the majesty of that, that God Himself has come in the Person of the Lord Jesus into a body in manhood, and He has gone in a way of obedience to the Father’s will to the cross. Now I can say, ‘He did not need to do it for Himself, because He was a sinless Man; He did it for me’. Can you say that? Can everyone here say that: He went to the cross, to the cross, for me? We need to have faith in the Lord Jesus who has been to Calvary’s cross and exhausted the wrath of God in the three hours of darkness. What was done then was unknown to the world because it was not seen, but in these three hours the Lord Jesus bore the judgment and He bore my sins. Ultimately, the universe will be cleared of sin by virtue of His work. You can come to Him in faith and put your trust in Him, believe on Him; believe too that He has been raised from the dead, because not only has He been on the cross but He has been in the grave and risen again, and your sins will be forgiven.
He shed His blood: that too is important. His blood was shed on the cross - a miracle. We might say that was the final miracle before He was raised from the dead. The Lord Jesus bowed His head and died, and when a soldier pierced His side there came out blood and water. Now that is, so far as men are concerned, impossible but we are speaking here of the Son of God. The Man who died on the cross is, was, and ever will be God. So it is a wonderful thing that the Lord Jesus has shed His blood, that God’s price demanded for redemption to bring us back to Himself has been paid. He owned us as a Creator. He created you and me, and He owned us in that sense. But He wanted to bring us back without sin, and Jesus has borne the penalty for that. God is satisfied; He has raised Him. So that the garments of salvation are manifest: we are to be clothed with all the blessings that God has in mind, that is, we are to take them on morally ourselves in our minds and hearts.
Now, we come to Zechariah. This is a remarkable reference because it introduces Satan; Satan is there to resist. Satan comes to the preaching, as well as the Lord Jesus; He comes to resist. The Lord Jesus speaks about the seed: the sower sows his seed and some that falls is snatched away - Satan does that, Matt 13: 19. You might get an impression of the Lord Jesus in the preaching, and you think it over, and Satan sometimes puts wrong thoughts in your mind about Jesus, and he snatches the word away. There is power in this prophecy of Zechariah. God says, “Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan!”. Think of that! Think of God superseding the intended work of Satan in my heart or your heart! It is a wonderful thing that God would intervene on our behalf, and He is intervening on behalf of the man in this scripture, Joshua.
Now, “Joshua was clothed with filthy garments”. A New Testament verse corresponding to that is: “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, Rom 3: 23. That is the basic way to start, to find out that we need to have a Saviour. Joshua was clothed with filthy garments; think of the idea of sin clinging to a person, and we see that in the world; the scripture refers to sin becoming, “exceeding sinful”, Rom 7: 13. It is like the darkness. We were once in a country hotel, and I was amazed when facing the mountains, without a house to be seen, that when you opened the curtains at night it was pitch black; you could not see a thing. That is like sin: and it clings on to people. “Joshua was clothed with filthy garments”. These ones have to come off! And then you have to be clothed with festival robes. The Angel says, “Take away the filthy garments from off him”. It is very important that you take it to yourself; the Lord Jesus did that work on your behalf, and if you are going to find salvation, the garment of salvation, then you have to “confess Jesus as Lord, and believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from among the dead”; and, as the scripture says, “thou shalt be saved”, Rom 10: 9. It is so straightforward, you see: the gospel is not complicated, but it is that we might be clothed in a better way, not with the filthy garments clinging on to us, clinging on to our hearts, clinging on to our minds, but with festival robes: what are they? Well, I think it is just what Isaiah speaks about, “the robe of righteousness”, and a turban on your head: that is, that you are now ready to speak to God. You can speak to God with freedom; you can speak to the Lord Jesus. and if you have the Holy Spirit, you can speak to the Holy Spirit with freedom. Righteousness, holiness, redemption, being clear, chosen in Him, without blame: these are the garments of salvation. God has a celebration in mind since you are a triumph or a trophy of divine love, of divine success: a trophy of God’s love that you might come into all the blessing that God has.
So the Angel says, “Take away the filthy garments. And unto him he said, See, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee”: that is, to have the burden of sins removed. John Bunyan illustrated the way of salvation by talking about a great bundle on the sinner’s back, and when he came to the place of the cross and sepulchre he saw the bundle fall off his back and it rolled away down the hill. That is just like your confession of the Lord Jesus, when you have your sins forgiven. “I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I have clothed thee with festival-robes”. Then “the Angel of Jehovah stood by”; that is, that you have divine support all the time.
Now when we come to Luke 15 it is the same thing, only this is a figure of a man who knew salvation and got away: he thought he knew better, and thought he could do better than being in God’s house, in the Father’s house. How sad that was; he got his share of the inheritance and went away, but he came to himself. It is a wonderful thing when people come back in repentance. That is the key to the glad tidings, “repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20: 21), the basic things that you must come to if you are going to find the presence of God in freedom, and have peace in your heart and soul, and know that no matter what takes place you will be with Christ in glory. That is one objective of the glad tidings: that you should have a hope.
Well, you come into these wonderful things by coming to yourself. This man wanted to be just a hired servant, but the father did not allow him to say that - once a son, always a son; how wonderful! If God has chosen me as a son, He will always regard me as a son, even if I am wayward and go away. The son came back in repentance, and he might have thought that the father, who is a figure of God, would have started to ask some questions: ‘Why did you spend all my money; why did you go and make a fool of yourself?’. No, the father ran, and he kissed him; that shows divine love in its essence. Then the great result of this is that what he was wearing was no use for the father’s house. In effect he needed to be clothed with Christ: “Bring out the best robe and clothe him in it”. The King James Version says, “put it on him”; well, you can put on anything; but the Darby Bible has “clothe him in it”, meaning it fits and it suits you, “the best robe”. And so you go out as the person who has not only had your sins forgiven. but you are going in cheerful with festival robes as a Christian, as a believer on the Lord Jesus, and you are not afraid to take that place. How wonderful and great that is! The younger son therefore had the best robe, and he was fit for the father’s house. “Let us eat and make merry”; that suggests the service of God, and for that you need to be clothed with the Spirit from on high as the Lord Jesus says, “clothed with power from on high”, Luke 24: 49. Think of the Spirit coming on you, and you being clothed in the Spirit, enveloping you, you being taken over by Christ, who is your Saviour and your Lover, but taken over also by the Holy Spirit so that your life might be for the service of God.
It is a great matter therefore that persons should remember the Lord Jesus in the breaking of bread, and enter into praise and song. That is the great objective of God; that is why we have “the best robe”, Christ, on us. So the father brings out the best robe, clothes him in it, “and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet”; so he would be fit to go into the father’s house. He was not going in in bare feet of the flesh but with sandals, the dignity that marks a person who is believing in Christ. So that “they began to make merry”; it does not say they ended: it just says, “they began to make merry”.
Well, I hope that everyone will enter into the idea that we need to be clothed properly for the presence of God, not only having our filthy garments of sin taken away, but by confessing the name of the Lord Jesus and believing that God has raised Him from the dead, being brought into something which is beyond anything that man can imagine, and which will go on to eternity. And it is a wonderful thing also, that God is going to clothe the saints with bodies of glory literally. While we are here we are clothed with the Spirit, when still in the bodies in which we are in flesh and blood, but God is going to change that because He is going to translate persons and bring them into conditions which finally are suitable for His own presence.
May God bless the word for His Name’s sake.
10th April 2016