Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The crown of glory ... and some dirty clothes

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked out of the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Then I [Zechariah] said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments while the angel of the Lord was standing by. (Zechariah 3:1-5)

My husband has tucked away among his keepsakes a shirt his mother made him when he was a little boy. It is covered with pictures of trains and train items. It is so old it is starting to fall apart. Clothes and memories are often intertwined. Brad has always loved steam engines. When he sees the shirt he is probably thinking of his mother and his many experiences with trains.

The Bible sometimes uses clothes as metaphors which embrace the promises of God. Sometimes clothes are a picture of our sinfulness and our repentance. People have an interesting relationship with clothes. The good wife of Proverbs clothed her family in scarlet. Jacob gave his favorite son Joseph a coat of many colors.  The armies of heaven are clothed in white.

But how clothes are worn and treated can be a symptom of disease.  In practical terms people experiencing mild cognitive impairment and different forms of dementia have a problem with clothes. And a problem with cleanliness. No one knows why they don’t like showers or bathing. But many do not. No one knows why they don’t like to change into clean clothes.

Thinking about this I thought of the verses I have placed above from the prophet Zechariah. And while I have at times not had the tolerance I should have, about not showering or changing clothes, God truly blessed me with promises that these verses and the rest of the chapter provided. But first the biblical context.

Joshua, as high priest after the Babylon captivity, represents the people gathered from their exile. Satan wants to accuse them of their past sin, but God wants to redeem and does redeem them. Joshua does not change his own dirty clothes, it is God’s command and God’s doing.[1] And there is a promise at the end of the chapter of the coming Branch, the servant of God. The Messiah.

Sometimes I think we, me, as caregivers get a bit snobbish. About cleanliness. But this person who loves to stay in the same clothes day after day, and generally would if allowed—has that sweeter disposition—it’s the people who he cares about, it’s the books he wants to share and the conversations he hopes for. His is a heart transformed in the middle of a reluctance to conform to my expectations. So, as some expert I read, I can’t recall who, stated, two or three showers a week is enough. And if necessary lay out the clean clothes. And you might add, it is going to be hot today you might want to wear a short sleeve shirt, or I think it is rather cold outside why don’t you take your jacket.

And now the blessing. As usual the biblical text is speaking of a particular time in Jewish history. After the exile, while the temple is being rebuilt. But the text is also a promise of God’s work in his people’s lives and a promise about a coming savior.

Thomas Edward McComiskey in his commentary on the text writes of Joshua receiving a clean turban and points out that this replaced the shame the people felt because of their past sin and exile. As he puts it, the turban “crowns the high priest’s glory.” McComiskey goes on to remind his readers of a crown in the New Testament. He writes:

“The New Testament speaks of the “crown of glory” that completes the believer’s process of glorification: ‘And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away (1 Peter 5:4; see 2 Tim.4:8; James 1:12; Rev. 2:10).’ As Joshua stands before the heavenly assemblage in this vision, he symbolizes his nation, but he foreshadows as well the experience of the believer under the new covenant.”

The image I am left with is of a Savior who will clothe all of our brokenness with a clean turban, a crown of holiness, which is his and his alone. I will see him, Brad, in the cleanest of clothes that will shine with the righteousness of Jesus. And because of that I see him different now—glorified with the love of Christ.

[1] For good commentary see, Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, in Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries & Thomas Edward McComiskey, “Zechariah,” in The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical & Expository Commentary. Vol. 3 (Baker).

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