Study 11 ZECHARIAH: A PICTURE OF THE GRACE OF GOD
STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS
by Francis Dixon
(Key-verse: Zechariah 3:2)
In this question asked by the prophet we have a wonderful illustration of the grace of God. We have a description of every sinner saved by grace, because in God’s mercy we have been “snatched from the fire”. Every time someone is brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ it can be said that a burning stick has been snatched from the fire. The language, of course, is figurative, and in this study we shall consider Fire as an emblem of sin; the Burning Stick as an illustration of the sinner; and the Snatching as a picture of the process of salvation.
1. THINK OF FIRE AS AN EMBLEM OF SIN
In the Bible, fire is the symbol of God’s presence (Exodus 3:2); of God’s protection (Exodus 13:21); of His purity (Hebrews 12:29); and of His power (1 Kings 18:38-39); but Jude 23 suggests that fire is an emblem of sin.
- 1. Fire is a terrible reality. It is so real that it can be seen and felt; and only a fool will question the reality of sin. The effects of sin can certainly be seen and felt all around us today. Sin is not just a figment of the imagination, as some would have us believe. It is the diabolical and evil thing that the Bible describes it to be – look up 1 John 1:8.
- 2. Fire spreads very rapidly. We all know how quickly fire breaks out into a great furnace – now look up Romans 5:12! – and compare the words “one” and “all”. Sin started as a tiny spark but soon it spread through the whole human race, and there is not a man or woman anywhere who has not been affected by the terrible ravages of sin – look up Genesis 6:5 and compare Luke 15:13-17.
- 3. Fire is very subtle and deceitful. Sometimes a tiny spark has been fanned by the wind, and as a result fierce flames have soon followed. How often we have put out a bonfire in our own garden, only to find the next day that it is still burning fiercely! Sin is like that. It can appear tame and harmless, but it is a deceitful and a dangerous thing (Hebrews 3:13) and compare 1 John 5:19.
- 4. If you play with fire you get burnt. Did you ever know anyone to play with sin and not get hurt? God’s Word says – look up John 8:34. There are many things we cannot be sure about, but here is one certainty: if we play with sin we shall get burnt and we shall suffer for it – look up Numbers 32:23.
- 5. Fire is terribly destructive. Almost every day we read in our newspapers of the havoc caused by fire, but also of the terrible havoc caused by sin as the lives of men and women are wrecked and destroyed. See what James 1:15 says, and compare Romans 6:23. The incident recorded in Mark 5:1-20 provides us with a vivid illustration of the destructive power of sin.
2. THINK OF THE BURNING STICK AS A PICTURE OF THE SINNER
- 1. The burning stick is insignificant and unprofitable. After all, it is only a stick, a dry twig, of no value. As a matter of fact, that is how the Bible describes man (Romans 3:12). How this fact magnifies the grace of God! Even though we are unprofitable the Lord has set His love upon us! – see Romans 5:6 and 8.
- 2. The burning stick is in the fire. Zechariah does not say that it is near the fire, or by the fire, but in it – just as the sinner is steeped in sin and sin is in the sinner – look up Romans 3:12.
- 3. The burning stick is slowly perishing. This is unpalatable for self-righteous men and women to accept, but God describes the natural man as perishing (Luke 13:3; John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 2:15; 2 Peter 3:9).
- 4. The burning stick has the marks of the fire upon it. It is impossible to go on committing sin without reaping the effects of sin. After all, what are lust, envy, passion, pride, murder, but the marks of the burning – the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) – the fruit of the unregenerate nature?
- 5. The nature of the burning stick is exactly suited to the nature of the fire. A stick is ideal for burning; and that is just what the Psalmist means in Psalm 51:5, where the meaning is that by nature we have a propensity to sin; we find it easy to sin because we were born that way.
- 6. The burning stick is unable to save itself. This illustrates a great Bible truth. The stick cannot extricate itself from the fire, any more than man is capable of saving himself from the fire of sin. Why did Peter say, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)? Simply because, being conscious that he was sinking, he knew that he could not save himself.
3. THINK OF THE SNATCHING AS A PICTURE OF SALVATION
There were two ways of saving the burning stick: first, by putting out the fire; or, by snatching the stick. The Lord Jesus has done both. On the Cross He put out the fire of sin once and for all, by the shedding of His blood. He dealt with the principle of sin by being made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21); and He snatched the sinner out of the fire of sin (Colossians 1:13). Can you see the picture? –
- 1. Salvation is an urgent matter. Look at the stick and see how the flames envelop it. They do not subside, in fact they increase, and the stick will be reduced to ashes. This is figurative language, but figures stand for facts. Look up 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:7.
- 2. Salvation is all of grace from start to finish. There is no good in the stick and yet it is saved (Ephesians 2:8-10). Our salvation is God’s work from beginning to end!
- 3. Salvation is a sudden and a decisive experience. Watch the stick being snatched from the fire – it only takes a second. Every Christian has had this experience of being lost and then saved; of being condemned and then justified; of being outside the kingdom and then inside the kingdom!
- 4. Salvation is a complete experience. Look up Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 1:7; 1 John 1:9.