Fourth Vision: Joshua’s New Clothes
3 1-2 Next the Messenger-Angel showed me the high priest Joshua. He was standing before God’s Angel where the Accuser showed up to accuse him. Then God said to the Accuser, “I, God, rebuke you, Accuser! I rebuke you and choose Jerusalem. Surprise! Everything is going up in flames, but I reach in and pull out Jerusalem!”
3-4 Joshua, standing before the angel, was dressed in dirty clothes. The angel spoke to his attendants, “Get him out of those filthy clothes,” and then said to Joshua, “Look, I’ve stripped you of your sin and dressed you up in clean clothes.”
5 I spoke up and said, “How about a clean new turban for his head also?” And they did it—put a clean new turban on his head. Then they finished dressing him, with God’s Angel looking on.
6-7 God’s Angel then charged Joshua, “Orders from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: ‘If you live the way I tell you and remain obedient in my service, then you’ll make the decisions around here and oversee my affairs. And all my attendants standing here will be at your service.
8-9 “‘Careful, High Priest Joshua—both you and your friends sitting here with you, for your friends are in on this, too! Here’s what I’m doing next: I’m introducing my servant Branch. And note this: This stone that I’m placing before Joshua, a single stone with seven eyes’—Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies—‘I’ll engrave with these words: “I’ll strip this land of its filthy sin, all at once, in a single day.”
10 “‘At that time, everyone will get along with one another, with friendly visits across the fence, friendly visits on one another’s porches.’”
Zechariah 3 (MSG)
Having returned from Cambodia three days ago, I am reflecting on our time there…particularly on a visit to S-21, the Genocide museum in Phnom Penh. Tuol Sleng, a former high school, was the secret centre of a network of nearly 200 prisons where people were brutally tortured by the Khmer Rouge during Pol Pot’s regime in the 70s. Between 12 000 and 20 000 people were imprisoned there, with only 12 confirmed survivors.
This has been my fifth visit to Phnom Penh, but the first time I had the courage to venture into S-21. Walking from room to room with Amanda, I was assaulted by the reminders of the brutality that torturers inflicted on their fellow Cambodians. Family members accused each other, former class mates would be victims, babies would be photographed in the arms of their mothers, only to be whisked away to be brutally killed at the Killing Fields, 15 km south of the city, and buried in mass graves, together with the people who were killed at S-21.
I saw the iron beds where prisoners were shackled and tortured, the floors forever stained by the blood spilled there. I saw the little cells hastily constructed with bricks and wood where prisoners were left to wait, in terror of the next “interrogation” session. More blood stains on the floors… I saw photo upon photo of ones who came into the prison, never to be seen again. In many places, our hearts were beating so fast, we felt dizzy. We listened to a narrator telling the stories of those killed here. We also heard the voice of a former torturer, describing what he had done. By the time we came to the room with paintings depicting the brutal torture techniques used on the prisoners, we could take no more. We left weeping, dumb-struck.
You might wonder what impacted me the most. The huge pile of iron shackled filling one side of a former classroom? The desk and chair where an unfortunate prisoner had to write a confession, naming people who were ‘opposing’ the communist regime, knowing they were writing death sentence upon death sentence for innocents? The rows upon rows of photos of children and teens? The iron beds next to graphic photos of the bodies found there when the prison was liberated?
No. Awful as it all was to see, what tore my heart more than anything else were the words of a former torturer. His said, when asked what he was feeling while he was torturing his brothers and sisters, fellow Cambodians, “I was proud because I was crushing the enemy”. The enemy. Yesterday, they were all proudly Cambodian, today they are enemies to be crushed, all because of ideology.
Which brings me to the scripture I started with. We still have an Accuser working tirelessly to accuse us before God and to one another. If he can make us believe someone is an enemy, whether it’s because of doctrinal differences, or the length of hair or a skirt, or a tattoo or the lack of one, if he can convince us to see each other as “the enemy”, he can stir up in us this horrible thing that cause us to desire to “crush”. We see it everywhere…nation against nation, but also denomination against nomination, family against family, brother against brother.
My heart breaks when I see family member accusing family member, torturing with the tongue, sowing discord and strive, keeping feuds alive for generations. I ache when congregation sets itself up against congregation, denomination against denomination, pastor against pastor, male against female, parent against child. The is no peace anywhere, not in the church, not in the home.
The Accuser speaks fluently and eloquently through the mouths and pens of those gifted by the Lord. What He meant for good, to inspire and encourage is perverted and used to maim, rob, kill and destroy. Ringing any bells yet? I cringe when I see entire websites dedicated to accusing certain churches, pastors or groups. Really? This is the best we can do?
We can walk around places like Auschwitz, or S-21 or the killing fields of my former homeland and think to ourselves “thank God, I am not like that” or “thank God, I wasn’t here” but are we blameless? Do we not torture with our tongue, accuse before man and God those who are our brothers and sisters? Will the Lord not rebuke us as He rebuked the enemy?
Can we humble ourselves today and allow the Lord to strip us of our filthy robes, put a clean turban on our heads? Can we allow Him to take a coal from the altar and cleanse our lips? Can we agree together and say “amen” when the Lord says “Careful”? Can we trust Him to search hearts, judge righteously and clean up His own?
“‘Careful, High Priest Joshua—both you and your friends sitting here with you, for your friends are in on this, too! Here’s what I’m doing next: I’m introducing my servant Branch. And note this: This stone that I’m placing before Joshua, a single stone with seven eyes’—Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies—‘I’ll engrave with these words: “I’ll strip this land of its filthy sin, all at once, in a single day.”
Let it be Lord, as You have said!