Sermon #12 Zechariah Series
Title: “A Brand Plucked Out Of The Fire”
Text: Zechariah 3:2
Subject: Grace Experienced
Date: Sunday Morning — August 28, 2005
Tape # Zechariah #12
Reading: Job 33:1-30
The Book of God has been given to us as the Revelation of his Christ, the Surety of the covenant, the Mediator of the New Testament, the Savior of the church, the Husband of his bride, the Head of his mystical body. Sometimes, he opens before us and causes us to see clearly in the face, person and work of Jesus Christ that fullness of grace, perfection of redemption, and completeness of salvation that is ours in him. Sometimes he gives us just a hint of it in a proverb. At other times this fulness of grace is expounded in parable, or in stated truth, or portrayed in types and shadows. But in this Book we are given that teaching which is called “good doctrine” and “sound doctrine.” It is called such simply because it is God’s doctrine and free from error. This is God’s Instruction Book for his children. As we read it and hear it proclaimed, we ought to do so with his command, given to us in Proverbs 19:27, ringing in our hearts. — “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.”
Then, sometimes, we have displays of God’s great salvation and boundless grace in Christ, hanging before us in a single passage, like great, ripe clusters of grapes, to be picked and eaten by the handfuls. That is what we have before us in Zechariah 3. In this vision of Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, the Spirit of God gives us a blessed, instructive view of God’s gracious dealings with a chosen, redeemed, and regenerate sinner. Here we have a striking display of what God does for his elect in Christ Jesus, and of what he is determined to have us be before him in spite of all the opposition we meet with from the world, the flesh and the devil.
Proposition: Zechariah 3 is a beautiful word-picture of every believer’s experience of God’s saving grace.
Here we see a man who is a sinner, but a saved sinner. — A man greatly beloved, yet viciously hated. — A sinner saved from sin yet fouled with sin. —Though sinning yet free from all sin. — He is a saint though a sinner. And though a sinner, he is a saint. — The filthy garments of sin hang on him and cover him fully. Yet he is clothed with the garments of salvation and robed by pure mercy in robes perfectly white and clean.
In this magnificent vision, the Lord God opens up the misery of his servant and the grace of his covenant in the experience of Zechariah. And here it is opened most beautifully to us as well. The first time I read this chapter with any perception of that which is here revealed, I thought to myself, “That is exactly what I have experienced and am experiencing.”
Look at the first verse: “And he showed me Joshua the high priest, standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.”
“He showed me”
Mark well those three words, “He showed me.” All that we can know of our true state as sinners before God must be shown to us by God himself. What did he show Zechariah? Joshua the high priest. — A man loved by God, saved by God, and privileged by God to enter into the Holiest of all by precious blood, there to hold communion and fellowship with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
This is all according to the pattern given by God himself to Moses as recorded in Exodus 25. — “And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.”
Here we see the tables of stone deposited in the ark of the covenant, literally buried, covered with the blood upon the Mercy Seat. What a blessed sight for the eye of faith to dwell upon! — The law with all its curse, condemnation, wrath and fury, the law by which is the knowledge of sin, forever out of sight and hearing! This is all of God’s showing. “He showed me,” said the prophet, and if he does not show to us the things of his kingdom and covenant we shall be left ignorant of him and them.
Turn to Luke 10, and I will show you the only time in the Word of God we read that our Savior rejoiced, while he walked on this earth.
The seventy had gone forth at his appointment and command, and returned flushed with pride at their success. They were full of themselves at the thought of their ability and the honor conferred upon them.
Poor things! Yet, what could have been more natural, or more expected? It matters not what our privileges may be, if we are made useful in the church of God, left to ourselves we will quickly swell with pride, taken up with our accomplishments, and think more of our blessings than of the Blesser, and the gifts we enjoy will stand between us and the Giver.
Look at verses 17-20. The proud disciples said, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” This is the execution of God’s judgment upon Satan for his enmity against God’s Christ. “Behold, I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you, notwithstanding,” though nothing can hurt you, and the power of the enemy is weakness before you, and the scorpions and serpents are under your feet, “in this rejoice not,” that the spirits are subject unto you; “but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” The sure and certain consequence of our names being written in heaven is the revelation of the mind and will of the Father to those whose names are found there.
“Ne’er had ye felt the guilt of sin,
Nor sweets of pard’ning love,
Unless your worthless names had been
Enrolled to life above.”
Now, read verses 21-23.
(Luke 10:21-23) “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. (22) All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. (23) And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see:”
Listen again, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight. All things are delivered to Me of My Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father: and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him” (Matt. 11:25-27).
Every revelation of the Father is by the Son, and every revelation of the Son is by the Father. And there can be no revelation of the Father in the Son, but by the Holy Spirit. “All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Cor. 12:11).
Will you turn with me to 1 Corinthians 2:7-9? No man can see, or even conceive of, anything spiritual, except God reveal it to him.
(1 Corinthians 2:7-10) “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: (8) Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (9) But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
When the disciples came to the Master “and said unto him, Why speakest Thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but unto them it is not given” (Matt. 13:10,11). Who were those left ignorant of Divine mysteries? The Master says, “Them that are without” (Mark 4:11). Without what? Outside the pale of God’s distinguishing grace, beyond the boundary line of God’s election, far off from the line of Christ’s redemption, beyond the realm of the Spirit’s regenerating grace.
Now Zechariah was not left without, an outsider, and neither are we who have experienced God’s saving operations of grace in Christ. Zechariah’s name means, “One whom God remembers.” That is my name, too. — “One whom God remembers.” Oh, how I like that! How we rejoice to know that God remembers us! So long as he remembers me, all is well. — “Remember the Word unto Thy servant” (Ps. 119:49). — “Remember me, O Lord, with the favor that Thou bearest unto Thy people” (Ps. 106:4). — The penitent thief desired no more; but desiring this, he desired all that was needful. — “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
He who remembers us in our low estate will ever prove himself to be the Revealer of his own truth to his own people. God reveals spiritual truths to the mind brought into spiritual union with Christ by his grace. As Paul puts it, “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:10).
“Before the Angel of The Lord”
Zechariah saw “Joshua, the high priest, standing before the Angel of the Lord.” What a favored position! How did he get there? He came because he was brought. He came because he was carried. He came because he was taught. He came for further teaching, and for further proof of the fact “that he should be holy and without blame before him” (Eph. 1:4).
Our Savior said, in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” Joshua was one of those given by the Father to the Son, to be saved in him with an everlasting salvation, redeemed with an eternal redemption, cared for with infinite, omnipotent care, sustained in every trial, sympathized with in suffering, and succored in every temptation.
Read John 17 again. There we see our Lord and Savior opening up his heart of love and making intercession for his disciples throughout the ages. Notice how he refers to them. Not once does he mention that we are sinners and transgressors, though we are. Yes, “He makes intercession for us as transgressors;” but he never mentions the fact that we are transgressors. In fact, if you read the Scriptures carefully, you will not find a single place in the New Testament where believing men and women are referred to by any but themselves as sinners. And in our Lord’s intercession there is not a word about our sins, or a hint at our transgressions, not even the faintest allusion to our infirmities, failures, faults, or falls. Rather, he speaks of us as his given ones, his saved ones, his redeemed ones, his sanctified ones.
In his intercession he speaks openly, freely and fully of the original terms of grace, the covenant made between himself and the Father before the foundation of the world on our behalf, the understanding between him and his Father in the counsels of eternity. He brings his loved ones to his Father as those whom Thou hast given Me. He presents us to the view of his Father just as we were when he received us from the Father’s hands before all worlds, holy, clean, pure, without spot, wrinkle, or any such thing. This is sweetly set forth one of John Kent’s great hymns.
Betrothed in love, ere time began,
His blood-bought Bride with Jesus see;
Made by eternal union One,
Who was, and is, and is to be.
Thus He became her Covenant Head;
Charged with her sin the Savior stands,
To do and suffer in her stead
All that the righteous law demands.
Here justice and the highest grace
Met in the sinners only Friend;
He freely took our lowest place;
Oh! love that does all thought transcend!
When sunk in sin He’ll not disown
Those sacred ties that made her His,
But claim this partner of His throne,
Through floods of wrath and deep distress.
Nor flood, nor flame, nor hell combined,
Shall from His heart the church divide;
His blood th’eternal covenant signed
When for her sins in love He died.
Thus in His eyes she ever stood
From wrinkle and from blemish free;
Lov’d with the dateless love of God,
And blest by the Great Sacred Three.
Thus we see Christ and his bride the church, God’s own elect, standing and abiding eternally pure and perfect through all the changes of changing time, secure from all defects and deformities, “complete in him.” Thus he ever will have and hold his own without blemish, without blot, without spot in the presence of his eternal glory.
Those are encouraging and heart-cheering words, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me.” Now mark well, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him.” In these words we discover the harmonious work of the Glorious Three-in-One: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
In all this Christ sees of the travail of his soul and is satisfied, and when the Holy Spirit draws and brings redeemed souls to him, he will take care of them, and will see to it, that, down to the depths of deserved damnation they can never go. The devil may assault, and ten thousand fiends may harass, but they can neither devour nor destroy. “I will keep thee,” is one of Christ’s exceeding great and precious promises. “And they shall never perish” is another. Such security is sweet to my soul.
· Do I sin? He saves me.
· Am I filthy? He cleanses me.
· Am I fainting? He revives me.
· Am I fallen? He restores me.
· Am I indifferent? He rouses me.
O, how blessed it is to know that Christ has full charge of my soul! The Father gives, the Spirit draws, the Savior carries, and preserves from all evil according to the Father’s purpose, all whose names are in the Book of Life, who are redeemed by the blood of the covenant, and quickened into spiritual life by God the ever-blessed Spirit.
Now I want you to notice the concentration of diversities, and the mingling of opposites Zechariah beheld in this man, Joshua. He was beloved and chosen of God. That is precious. Yet, as a chosen and redeemed sinner, he must know himself as clothed with iniquity. — In Christ, perfectly pure as pure Christ is pure, as righteous as Christ is righteous, as holy as Christ is holy.
I can hear Dr. Legality screaming in horror, “I cannot believe that!” Perhaps not. But I rejoice to know it, believe it, and proclaim it. Believing sinners are holy, acceptable to, and accepted by God in Christ.
The holiness of Israel of old was God in the midst of her. We see this displayed in Exodus 28, where the high priest appears in his garments of glory and beauty, wearing his priestly crown, on which was inscribed, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD.” There God revealed to Israel all the holiness they needed and all the holiness he required. As Christ is revealed to me, an unholy wretch, I enjoy him and rejoice in him as my Holiness, my Righteousness, my Sanctification, and my Redemption. Truly, “Jesus is everything to me!” Yes…
“I am a poor sinner, and nothing at all
But Jesus Christ is my All in All.”
Yes, Christ is my Holiness, my Righteousness, my Redemption, my Wisdom, my Supply in need, my Defense in danger, my Deliverer from distress, my Salvation from sin, my Strength in weakness, my Solace in sorrow, my Comfort in sorrow, my All in all! Who can show forth all his praise, or all the blessedness of truths so great, gracious, and glorious?
In Christ we are pure, though in ourselves we are utterly impure. God says, “I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against Me.” Hear what he says of the children of his own rearing. — “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isa. 1:2,6). — “But we are all as an unclean thing” (Isa. 64:6). Who are these unclean people? They are the very people for whom God has prepared all the good things of the covenant, which are revealed unto them by his Spirit, as we learn from Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 64:4 in 1st Corinthians 2:9. These are they who rejoice in God, Who meets them with his reconciling grace, and works righteousness in them as the fruit and evidence of his life bestowed.
Listen to Isaiah again (64:5). — “Those that remember Thee in Thy ways.” I like to do that. “Behold, Thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved.” In what is continuance? In the saving power of God’s right hand, and the unchanging love of his heart. Yet, in the face of all this, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
Those described by Isaiah are spiritually one with Joshua, fully aware that we are clothed with filthy garments, yet spiritually free from sin, without spot or blot in the righteousness of the Lord the Lamb!
(Isaiah 59:11-13) “We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. (12) For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; (13) In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.”
Now, look at verse 19. Isaiah is talking about sinners saved by grace. They and they alone are people who know and confess their sins, “standing before the angel of the Lord,” knowing that “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with Whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13).
(Isaiah 59:19) “So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.”
I thank God that he has showed me myself and graciously compels me to confess daily to him, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18). I take the ground he gives me. I take my place before him as a sinner, nothing but a sinner, trusting Christ alone for redemption and righteousness, forgiveness and salvation, grace and glory!
(1 John 1:7-10) “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (8) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
It is a blessed thing to have a right apprehension of these covenant realities, not because they are written in a creed, but because they are written in our hearts by the finger of God in the experience of grace. Christ our God is our Confidence and our Security.
(Psalms 65:4-5) “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. (5) By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea:”
(Proverbs 3:26) “For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.”
“Man, know thyself,” is an old adage, and a very good one, when a man knows himself lost, empty and vile. But the most blessed part of this knowledge is that it is secured to us in the everlasting purpose of love (Jer. 31:33-34), in the person of Christ (John 17:3), in the Scriptures of truth (1 John 5:13), in a God-given understanding (1 John 5:20), and by the anointing of the Spirit (1 John 2:27). God’s promise still holds good. — “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (Isa. 54:13).
To know one’s self is a very bitter and terrible lesson. It is painful yet blessedly profitable to see myself filthy and vile in the light of God’s infinite perfections as they shine in the face of Jesus Christ. It is here I discover and acknowledge that my carnal mind is enmity against God, my heart deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. I might as well look for holiness in Satan as look for it in myself! Holiness is only to be found in Christ (Heb. 12:14), and that only as we are brought to him by God the Holy Spirit to enjoy the exceeding riches of his grace!
Notice Joshua’s posture. He “stood before the Angel.” Though he was clothed with filthy garments, his standing in the pure white robe of Christ’s righteousness was not compromised thereby. I like that word “stood” “standing.” How glorious it appears when our hearts are warmed in singing these sweet words by Mote,
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”
Yet, this standing is assailed, “and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” Are you standing before Christ, the Angel of the Lord? If so, Satan is not far away. Read for yourselves the first and second chapters of the Book of Job. The sons of God appear before him, but Satan is among them. The patriarch is accepted of God, but he is accused by Satan. Look at Paul in the third heaven. You need not look long before you see the messenger of Satan buffeting him. Read Ephesians 6:12, and there you will see the saints contending with wicked spirits in “heavenly places,” the very places of spiritual blessing, heavenly glory, divine communion, and gracious revelation (Eph. 1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10). Every place of spiritual privilege is the scene of spiritual conflict.
As Zechariah observed these things, Satan appeared to have the advantage. He stood at Joshua’s right hand. Christ’s lawful position is the right hand of God. The bride sits at the right hand of the King. This is the legal right. So Satan stands to powerfully put in his claim to the possession Joshua. He questions the right of the Covenant Angel to his redeemed property. He says, “He is mine. How can he belong to a God of purity, and clothed in garments so filthy?”
The fiend of hell ever rakes up all the filth and dirt possible to strengthen his claim to weak and weary saints. And there appears to be legal ground for his claim, as he describes every one of us as we are in ourselves and portrays the carnality of our nature. He lays claim to what appears to be his own property. But when a Stronger than he comes to take possession by grace of his purchased right, then the poor anxious soul feels its true desert, eternal damnation, God’s frown, Satan’s malicious work, according to Hart’s words,
“When his pardon is signed, and his peace is procured,
From that moment his conflict begins.”
Every living child of God knows this to the sorrow of his soul. Quickened by the Holy Spirit, he struggles to be free from Satan’s thrall, while Satan is determined to retain his hold. But the Angel before and in Whom Joshua stands has a good word ready for his loved one. — “And the Lord said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee.”
Look at that! Here we see that God’s thunderbolt in smashing Satan’s power is sovereign election. Let us read it again; “The LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire. Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the Angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.”
Here, too, we see the joint action of pastors according to God’s heart and God who appointed them. The God-sent pastor, sent and energized by his Spirit, by the preaching of the gospel strips his people of their filthy rags, a people cleansed with atoning blood, and puts upon them the garments of salvation, and crowns them as a people “crowned with lovingkindness and tender mercies.”
“And he said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments.” Here we see that “God’s commandings are God’s enablings.” What God desires to be done he will lovingly enforce.
“And the Angel of the Lord stood by,” superintending the whole affair, seeing that nothing designed was left undone, and all that was designed was perfectly done. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).
A Brand Plucked
Now, I want to focus your attention on the question our Savior put to Satan, with regard to Joshua in the last line of verse 2. It is a question that applies to every sinner saved by God’s free grace in Christ, a question by which our mighty Advocate and Intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ defies Satan and silences his accusations against us. — “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
There is mention of a fire. Fire has something fearful in it. The fire here is the fire of sin. It blazed in the heart of an angel, and he became a devil. Its sparks fell into the bosom of mother Eve, and into the heart father Adam, and paradise was burned up, and the world became a wilderness. Sin is a fire which destroys the comfort of mankind here, and all the joy of mankind hereafter. It is a flame which yields no comfortable warmth. The sinner may dance in the light of it for a moment, but in sorrow will he have to lie down in it forever. Woe unto those who have to make their bed in this fire, to dwell with these consuming flames for all eternity!
Then there is mention of a brand. A firebrand is a piece of burning wood. What could be more properly descriptive of the state and condition we were in when God saved us by his wondrous grace? Burning with lusts, blackened by sin, consumed with iniquity! That is how the Lord found me.
The Angel of the Lord asks, “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” That is exactly how God saves sinners by his omnipotent grace. When God the Spirit of takes the firebrand in his omnipotent hand of irresistible grace, and without asking it whether it would or not, by the sweet and irresistible compulsions of divine mercy, he plucks the brand out of the fire. Every believer in the Lord Jesus is a trophy of the omnipotence as well as of the grace of God. It takes the same omnipotence to snatch a sinner from the fire as did to make a world. Do you ask, “How does God save sinners?’ I answer, “He plucks them as brands from the fire. He grabs them by his grace, and lifts them out. He reaches down and lifts them up.”
I was near to despair,
When Christ came to me there,
And as wretched and vile as could be.
But my Savior, in love,
Gave me peace from above,
When He reached down His hand for me!
Illustration: Grace Grabs
And the grace that plucked us out of the fire, the grace that grabbed us from the very jaws of hell, is all our assurance and security. When our Savior asks, “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire,” it is as much as if he said to Satan, but said in Joshua’s hearing and for Joshua’s benefit, “I didn’t snatch this brand out of the fire, only to toss him back. He’s mine. My Father gave him to me. I redeemed hi with my blood. I snatched him from the fire-pit of destruction by my Spirit. And I will keep him forever.” Therefore, it is written…
(Revelation 20:6) “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
And can he have taught me to trust in his name,
And thus far have brought me to put me to shame?
“Salvation is of the, Lord.” We look to the Lord for it. Rest your soul on him now, and you shall be his forever. You shall dwell with him on high. The place of your defense shall be the munitions of rocks. And your eyes shall see the King in his beauty forever. May God the Holy Spirit make you, this very hour, “a brand plucked out of the fire” by his almighty grace, for Christ’s sake.