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God’s Word for You

Zechariah 3:1 The accuser

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Fourth Vision

In this fourth vision and the next, Zechariah has moved from outside the city, perhaps near the Mount of Olives, into the temple courts. These two visions (the fourth and the fifth) are about Israel’s status before God.

3 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing on his right to accuse him.

We need to ask some questions about this passage:

1, It always troubles us to hear about Satan. Who really is Satan?

This is an excellent question because “Know your enemy” is a warning that we all must take to heart, and Satan is not just the enemy of Christians, but of all living things. He is a fallen angel (2 Peter 2:4). He abandoned his home in paradise and was condemned for it, and hell will be his prison forever (Jude 1:6). He dominates other fallen angels, often called demons, but he is not their god; they all will suffer the same fate and prison (Matthew 25:41). By his name “devil” we see that he is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44); he tempts people to sin and he tries to kill God’s people, sometimes with success (Matthew 17:15, 27:5). He wants to ruin God’s creation. “He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short” (Revelation 12:12). By his name “Satan” we see that he accuses us of sin to cause despair and to turn us away from faith into self-pity, doubt, and unbelief. He accuses us of many things, and we dare not defend ourselves with passages such as “I love the Lord for he heard my voice” (Psalm 116:1), because he will counter with, “You have not loved the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and you know it. And the Scripture says: ‘If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse be on him!’ (1 Corinthians 16:22).” The devil delights in trying to turn the Scriptures on us the way he tried with Jesus (Matthew 4:6). Instead, we must say to the devil’s accusations, “Christ died for me on the cross and said ‘It is finished (John 19:30),’ and that is what happened to my sin. It was paid for, so go away and leave me in the name of Jesus my Savior.”

2, It troubles us to even invoke the name or titles of Satan. What does “Satan” mean, and how often does this word occur?

As we have seen above, “Satan” means “accuser” (see Revelation 12:10) just as “devil” means “liar.” The earliest references to the devil by the term “Satan” come from the time of King David. This was about the time when the book of Job was written, and there are fourteen references to Satan in Job. Apart from those, Satan is mentioned just four times by that title in the Old Testament: once in 1 Chronicles 21:1 (about David), once in this verse, and twice in the next (Zechariah 3:2). The other 35 references to Satan are all in the New Testament, just about evenly distributed between the Gospels (16), and 17 in the epistles and Revelation,  with a couple in Acts as well. Besides “Satan” and the more common title “devil,” the Bible also calls him “the evil one” (Matthew 5:37, 6:13, 13:19, 13:38; John 17:15) and “the enemy” (Matthew 13:39; Luke 10:19; 1 Timothy 5:14 and in some of the Psalms). Solomon preaches a beautiful Gospel sermon in this context of the devil’s names and titles when he says: “A poor man [with faith] is better than a liar” (Proverbs 19:22).

3, It concerns us that Satan was with the high priest and standing before the Lord. Was the temple completed yet?

This is answered simply with the chronology that Zechariah and Ezra provide. This vision took place during the night of February 15, 519 BC (Zechariah 1:7), and the temple was not completed and dedicated for another three years, on March 12, 516 (Ezra 6:15).

4, It concerns us that Satan might enter into the temple, whether it was dedicated or not, either in the court, the holy place, or even the holy of holies.

Satan can enter anyplace on earth. There is no City of Refuge to which human beings can run to avoid the temptations and accusations of the devil. He can torment an infant in the cradle and he can tempt a preacher in the pulpit. He can bring sin and destruction even into the most holy place of the temple or tabernacle. This was something that happened between the Old and New Testament times, when a Greek king built a pagan altar on top of the altar that was even now (in Zechariah’s time) being built. That king, Antiochus Epiphanes, made the Jewish religion and sacrifices illegal in Israel, and he desecrated the temple by re-dedicating it to the Greek god Zeus under the thinly disguised name Baal Shamaim, or “Lord of Heaven.” Loyal Jews called in Baal Shamanym, “Lord of Horrors.” This was the act that brought about the Maccabean revolt. But while there is no City of Refuge or place in the world where we can run to be safe from Satan’s murderous lies and temptations, we can run to Christ no matter where we are. We can pray to Jesus, and we should especially do this out loud, invoking Jesus’ name as our Savior, because the lying rascal runs from the name of Jesus, for at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:10). So whatever we do, whether in word or deed, we do well to do it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:17).

5, It concerns us that if Satan could enter the temple of the believing Jews in Zechariah’s vision, can Satan enter into our churches while we worship?

Of course he can. His temptations can drift into our churches to distract us and tear our attention away from the preaching and from the sacrament. From this, protect us, dear Father in heaven! The devil’s temptations can hitch a ride on sunbeams, distracting us with beauty, or on a crookedly-placed flower arrangement, distracting us with disharmony. His temptations and distractions can tie themselves to the skirts of pretty girls or, for the girls, to the neatly combed hair and Sunday Best worn by the young men. But his temptations can be shrugged off by the faithful as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and our minds fixed on the blessed glory of the forgiveness of sins.

6, If Satan can accuse the high priest of God, what am I to do when he comes to accuse me?

Satan can wield power over man (Acts 26:18; Hebrews 2:14) but he has no authority over man, nor does he have any rights over us or that concern us. The world is not indebted to the devil at all, but only to God, as Paul says: “The whole world is held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19). So when he comes to accuse or tempt me, I can say that I believe in Jesus Christ, that Jesus died for my sin, and that the fallen devil has no power over me. He may have rejoiced over Christ’s death, but through that death the devil was conquered. Augustine calls this the cheese or bait in a mousetrap, because the very thing he was delighted by was a trap for him. He was destroyed and his head was crushed by the death of Christ.

Finally, we can remember the immediate context of Zechariah’s book. In the previous verse, the Lord God commanded all flesh to be silent. We are subject to God’s judgment, not the devil’s. The devil will be silenced forever by the Last Judgment. So while we do not need to fear the devil, we should be aware of him and know that he is a dangerous enemy, that he is never our friend, and that he seeks to devour and kill both the body and the faith of every person alive. Be aware that there is only one path to heaven, which is faith in Christ, and the pathways away from heaven are infinite, broad, easy, and inviting. None of those ways leads to heaven, joy, or peace. They all lead to everlasting pain, suffering and torment. By the grace of God, remain on the narrow path, and do not wander off to the right or to the left.  Let us end today with a confession from the Catechism, the explanation of the Second Article:

  •   I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.
  •   All this he did that I should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he has risen from death and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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