A burning stick.
Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?
The slaves have just been set free. Free to go home. Free to begin a new life.
Life in Babylon has been sad and hard. The rubble of Jerusalem awaits them, longing for workers to rebuild its temple and walls.
There is a man to represent the people like old times. A chosen priest to stand before God on behalf of the nation.
But there is a paradox: On one side Satan stands next to the man, accusing him of being worthless, dirty and covered in the stains of sin. On the other side is Yahweh who says, “no, this man is not filthy, he is a burning stick snatched from the fire!”
A burning stick? A log of wood pulled out of a furnace? A brand of kindling that has been through the fires of discipline and suffering? Yes this man has been set free. He has escaped the fire. He is no longer an exile in Babylon. He is given rich clothes to wear. Pure, spotless garments. His sin is taken away.
There is the paradox. Satan still wants to accuse God’s chosen people even though they have been snatched from the fire and made whole. Zechariah said, “this is a symbol of things to come.” This is a symbol of us!
Just as God’s people were plucked out of Babylon and returned to their holy city, purified and cleansed – so Yahweh will remove the sin of this land in a single day!
The walk along the path beyond the small gate will involve confronting the paradox. Satan accuses us of still being filthy. He will point to our failures and mistakes; our contradictions and rebellions. He will say: how can you be in Christ when you think like that and do this behind their backs? But as we entered through the small gate (made from the Branch), at that very moment we were made right. The LORD rebuke you Satan!
See the vision in Zechariah 3:1-10.