A Call for Cleansing

This post is based on a message from Pastor Todd Cosenza, given at Hope Church on Sunday, March 24, 2024. Click the link at the bottom of the page to watch the entire message.

Our passage is from Zechariah, chapter 3. The book of Zechariah is a message of hope. The Israelites spent 70 years in captivity because of their idolatry and sin against God’s commands. The time of their discipline was nearly over and God gave the prophet Zechariah a vision. God didn’t just want to bring His people back to Israel, their homeland. He was after a deep cleansing.  

Joshua was a high priest, which was the highest spiritual calling at that time. He represented the people of God then and he’s a picture of the church today. We are called to a high priesthood (see 1 Peter 2:9). This calling comes with great responsibility — God’s people are called to a holy life. 

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?’ Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.”  (Zechariah 3:1-3 NIV)

A few details in this passage show us that Joshua wasn’t living a holy life as God desired:

  • He was called a “burning stick” — the Hebrew word means “a firebrand,” something used to stir up the flames in a fire. In this passage Joshua was called a firebrand because he was somehow stirring up trouble for God’s people. 
  • He was wearing “filthy clothes” — his soiled clothing represented the sin in his life. 

In other words, this representative of God’s people had stirred up trouble and had soiled his clean, priestly garments. Joshua, like the Israelites, needed more than a return to the homeland; they needed God’s cleansing work.

There are three things that we can learn about God’s cleansing work in our lives from this passage:

1. When God does a work of cleansing, He starts with an invitation, not an accusation. 

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan!”  (Zecharariah 3:1 NIV)

The devil showed up in God’s presence to bring accusation against God’s servant. Though the enemy is standing right next to Joshua, the Lord would not allow the devil to bring a word of accusation. God silenced the devil and did not allow him to bring an accusation, even though it was true that Joshua had sin in his life

When God calls His people to a time of cleansing and repentance, He doesn’t start with an accusation but with an invitationAccusation is not how heaven operates, and it should not be allowed in God’s church. God offers us an invitation that leads to change, not an accusation that leads to punishment and shame.

In the New Testament, Jesus demonstrated this principle when the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery was brought before Him by the Pharisees. They accused her of her sin and wanted to stone her for it according to the Law of Moses. Jesus helped her accusers see that they were no better than she was and they each dropped their stones and walked away. He asked her, “Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” She responded, “No one, sir.” Jesus said, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.” He did not accuse her, but gave her an invitation to walk in freedom.

2. Even though you may be soiled with sin, you are still chosen by God and His desire is to restore you and not punish you. 

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!”  (Zechariah 3:2 NIV)

Though Jerusalem (and by extension God’s people) sinned greatly against God, God still defended her against the accusations of the enemy. Jerusalem was still chosen and did not lose her position before God in spite of her sin. God had placed a calling upon Jerusalem and the people of Israel, and there was no sin that could undo that calling.

No matter what you’ve done or how disappointed you are in yourself, the Lord has chosen you and will not change His mind. The Lord has chosen you, and no one can un-choose you. In 1 Peter 2:9, the apostle Peter firmly declares the true identity of God’s people, the Church, and begins with this same truth, “…but you are a chosen people…” Sin does not undo the calling (choosing) of God. Every person in the Bible who was chosen by God for His purposes sinned against God at some point. Their sin may have affected how they lived and the level of blessing they enjoyed, but they remained chosen.

“The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.’ Then I said, ‘Put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.” (Zechariah 3:4-5 NIV)

When we bring a heart of repentance before the Lord, it’s not to appease Him. He’s not angry with us. Repentance is a time of change, or a better word would be exchange. Notice the angels did not put Joshua’s new, fine garments on top of his old, filthy clothes. He had to take off the old before he could put on the new. God is not interested in covering things up! There must be an exchange in our life. We don’t just put God’s clothing of righteousness on top of our filthy sin and self-righteousness. We must take off the old self, our old lifestyle, in order for there to be a restoration of our identity in Him. The old must come off before the new can be put on. It comes down to relinquishing control of our lives and allowing God to have control. None of us can control the outcome of our life by trying to do good. We have to move from this fallacy of self-control to placing faith in God’s control. We exchange our will for His will.

3. God wants to restore you to walk in His authority.

“The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “If you will walk in obedience to Me and keep My requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.” (Zechariah 3:6-7 NIV)

The Lord isn’t done with us after forgiving us and cleansing us. He wants to fully restore us to a point of walking in His power and authority as the priesthood should. He wants us to govern His house and have charge of His courts — that speaks of power and authority. The path to power and authority is through the cleansing work of Christ. Cleansing always comes before an impartation of authority. Purity precedes power. God’s church must walk in holiness in order to walk in His authority and power, and He uses this path of cleansing to impart His authority to us. God is not through with His work of cleansing until there is a fresh impartation of His authority in our lives.


  • Invitation (not accusation). The Lord silences our accuser. 
  • Restoration (exchange). The filth of sin and shameful memories come off in His presence, and He clothes us with His righteousness. 
  • Impartation (authority). God restores not only our holiness, but our authority and power in Him.

Proudly powered by WordPress

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.