A Glimpse Inside the Courtroom of God

Have you ever served on jury duty?

Earlier this year, I did. It was an eye-opening experience. We ended up sentencing a guy to 99 years behind bars.

Those four days of jury duty taught me three things about the U.S. legal system:

  1. Courtrooms are solemn places. You don’t go there to joke around. Everyone involved—the judge, the jurors, the lawyers, even the suspect—dresses nicely and behaves in a respectful manner.
  2. The judge is boss. He’s in charge. Everyone refers to him as “Your Honor.”
  3. Prosecutors are scary. They will go to great lengths to prove that wrongdoers are guilty. They are surgical, serious, and remarkably effective. After the trial was over, I thought, man, I don’t ever want to be on the receiving end of a prosecution.

One morning before leaving for jury duty, I happened to read Zechariah 3. Coincidentally, in that chapter, Zechariah has a vision of a courtroom. Only this courtroom wasn’t some ordinary courtroom; it was the courtroom of God Himself.

[An angel] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. | Zechariah 3:1

Whoa, pause. Joshua, the high priest, is the defendant and Satan is the prosecutor. Can you imagine what it must feel like to be prosecuted by Satan himself? What a nightmare!

Just imagine all the dirt
Satan could dig up on each one of us.

Luckily for Joshua, God intervenes:

And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” | Zechariah 3:2

I love that line—“a brand plucked from the fire.” Imagine a charred piece of wood snatched from the flames of a campfire. Powerful salvation imagery.

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. | Zechariah 3:3

The Hebrew word translated filthy means “polluted with excrement.” Can you imagine how you would feel if you were in God’s courtroom and realized that your clothes were soiled like that?

How mortifying.

But look at the next two verses:

And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by. | Zechariah 3:4-5

Again God intervened. Not only did He spare Joshua from Satan’s withering prosecution, but He mercifully removed the filthy clothes and replaced them with clean garments.

Again, what a beautiful picture of the Gospel! In the courtroom of God, every single one of us deserves to be condemned. We have disobeyed and offended the Judge of the universe. Even our righteous deeds are like filthy garments (Isaiah 64:6). Satan, the fiercest prosecutor imaginable, stands ready to condemn us.

What a dire situation!

But, thank the Lord, that’s where the good news comes in. For those of us who trust Christ as our Savior, God kindly reaches down, plucks us out of the fire, and replaces our filthy garments (our sin) with clean, pure clothing (His righteousness). Were it not for Christ, we would each deserve a punishment much worse than 99 years in prison—in fact, we would deserve death. But, instead, God shows us mercy. 

That’s the essence of the gospel.

And because of His mercy, because of the cross, because of Christ’s blood shed for us, God looks at us and declares His verdict:

I n n o c e n t .

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