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Insights #11 June 15, 2013
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Second Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Visions of Hope (Zechariah)
For the week of June 15, 2013
 
 
Burning Oil

There is a Comic Book entitled the Fantastic Four which has a fictional character by the name of ‘the Human Torch’. As his name suggests, the Human Torch is able to engulf his entire body in flames, and not be consumed.  In other words, he is a living torch. Although we are not fictional characters, but are made of real flesh and blood, this fictional character visually represents an image of what the Lord wishes His people were spiritually—hot (Revelation 3:15). This image also represents the text from Matthew 5:14a, which says we are the light of the world. However, can we be engulfed by fiery flames and not be consumed?

Is there anything in the physical world that can be engulfed in flames, give out light and not be consumed?  The answer is yes; because we know for a fact that Moses in the wilderness encountered the flaming bush which was not consumed. Also notable in scripture, is the case of the three Hebrew worthies who were thrown in the fiery furnace and were not consumed; as well as the Prophet Elijah himself who was carried into heaven, in a flaming chariot of fire. These examples demonstrate that although God is a consuming fire, He does not desire to incinerate man.

Fire provides light and warmth, and during the Hebrews’ sojourn in the wilderness, God used the wall of fire to provide these necessities for them. Had the Children of Israel remembered and recounted their history of God’s loving provisions, in addition to His care and protection, they would have been kept from idolatry. But, longing to be like the surrounding nations, they did not heed the warnings and reproofs of the prophets. Thus, through the example of their hard hearted leaders, they were led deeper and deeper into apostasy, until at last they went into a 70 year captivity.

God in His mercy did not destroy the Israelites during their protracted and fiery captivity. And although there had seemed no end in sight to the trial in which they felt they’d be consumed, at last, they were purged of their idolatrous ways. God had only used the heat of their trial to remove their dross. 

Many years before, the prophet Isaiah had declared that the Lord would cleanse His people from their iniquities "by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning." The word of the Lord to Israel was, "I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin." Isaiah 4:4; 1:25.

Under, Ezra and Nehemiah the Israelites were once again to be reestablished as a nation. A remnant of Israel, they had begun to build, but their hands were weakened. Again, the command to rebuild came from the Lord, this time under Haggai and Zechariah. They were to build again the city walls which were in disrepair, as well as its temple. To encourage them at this time, the Lord gave Zechariah a series of visions which he faithfully relayed to the people. In one of the visions, Joshua the High Priest was shown as clothed in filthy garments representing the sinfulness of himself and his people. Accused by Satan night and day, the repentant High Priest was rescued by the Lord, as a ‘brand plucked out of the fire’ (Zechariah 3:1-5). This vision makes it plain that both Joshua and the people were almost consumed by their fiery trial after having returned from the captivity. To sin, wherever found, "our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29). They had however, repented, and the change of clothing was given to Joshua in place of his own garments of self-righteousness. The clean and white garments represent the loving, righteous character of Christ proffered upon Joshua as well as upon the people. In all who submit to His power, the Spirit of God will consume sin. But if men cling to sin, they become identified with it. Then the glory of God, which destroys sin, must destroy them. (DA 107)

In Zechariah chapter 4, another vision is recorded. This time the prophet is awakened from sleep, and asked to identify what he sees. This vision alluded to the holy place in the sanctuary, and concerned the two olive trees which stand before God. These trees were represented as emptying the golden oil out of themselves through golden tubes into the bowl of the candlestick.  It is from this that the lamps of the sanctuary were fed, that they may give a bright, continuous light. From the holy ones that stand in God's presence His Spirit is imparted to the human instrumentalities that are consecrated to His service. (PK 594.1: COL 408.1) Filled with the Holy Spirit, the human instrumentalities are aflame; they are hot, but not consumed.

During the time of Christ, John the Baptist had been sent to herald the way to the kingdom of God. Once again, the people had gone into servitude, this time to the Romans; and their beloved temple, upon which the greatest light had ever shone in the person of Christ Himself, was soon to be destroyed. Of John, Jesus said, “He was a burning and a shining light:…” He gave witness to Christ. A burning and a shining light, and yet John was not consumed.  And Jesus Himself was a shining light, sent to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79).

It could be said that each of these persons mentioned, Moses, Elijah, the three Hebrew worthies, Isaiah, Nehemiah, John the Baptist and even Jesus Christ were human torches. They were aflame with the loving character of God, which they willingly gave witness to. Filled with the Spirit of God, they did the works which the Father had ordained for them to do. The Holy Spirit came upon them and with flame retardant garments, clothed them because they were not resistant; and the Father did the works through them.

Spiritually, we too are to be human torches, lighting the way to the kingdom, manifesting the mighty work of God in transforming our characters to reflect His own. My prayer is that as shining lights, may others see the good work of God in us, the face of Jesus, and glorify our Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
-Raul Diaz