Next came the sixth and seventh vision that Zechariah experienced in one night. By this time, the poor man was undoubtedly exhausted and wondering if he was ever going to get any sleep tonight!
In his six vision, he saw a flying scroll, unfurled and waving in the wind like a banner. Unlike the scroll in Revelation which was rolled up and sealed, this one was open for all to see and read. It was approximately 30 feet long and 15 feet wide, which would be extremely large for a scroll, and was the exact same size as the Most Holy Place in the temple. The point is clear: God is making sure that everyone has a chance to read this and understand it. It’s like he put it on a huge billboard at every major stoplight in town, or like he purchased commercial time on the Super Bowl.
And what was on this scroll? It was a message of judgment, of condemnation. It symbolized God’s word, specifically his standards as laid out in his word. It only mentions his condemnation of thieves (violating the Eighth Commandment) and perjurers (swearing falsely in the Lord’s name, disobeying the Third Commandment). Why only these two commandments? Was there no murder, no idolatry in the land? We’re not sure why the Lord focused on these two; maybe they were the most prominent or most socially acceptable sins.
But let’s focus on what the scroll is doing, since that’s the most relevant. It’s been sent out by the Lord, and it’s flying over Israel, reminiscent of when the Lord hovered over Egypt so many years ago in judgment. According to today’s passage, there was no escape from this judgment. A thief or a perjurer might think he’d be safe in his home, that he’d gotten away with it. Au Contraire. The scroll, representing God’s holy standard, would enter his home and bring it down on his own head.
Of course, it’s not mentioned in this passage, but there is an escape route. There always is: Doing things God’s way. You recognize and acknowledge the fact that you’ve violated God’s commandments, you ask for his forgiveness, and determine (by his help) that you’re going to do things his way from now on. But there’s no other way out of it.
We’re going to spend just a little time on the vision (Zechariah’s seventh) which takes up the rest of the chapter. The reason we’re not going to devote much time to it is because it’s a bit obscure, and scholars are somewhat divided on its exact meaning. From what I’ve gleaned from the commentators, here’s my interpretation of it.
The prophet saw a small basket (Hebrew ephah) which in real life wouldn’t be big enough to hold a regular-size woman, but this is a vision, not literal. The woman apparently symbolizes the entire sinful system that Israel was living in, what John was referring to as “the world” in his epistle. There’s individual sin, and then there’s a sinful atmosphere that “builds up” over time.
Why is it symbolized as a woman? Is this misogynistic? Of course not. Both men are women alike are under God’s judgment, but perhaps it’s based on the fact that the Hebrew word for “iniquity” (or “wickedness” in other translations) from vs. 8 happens to be feminine in gender.
Then he saw two women with wings like storks pick up the basket and fly off with it between them. Some commentators find significance in the fact that they had stork wings and storks are unclean, while others don’t. The main point is that they’re carrying away the sinful system out of Israel and back into Babylon. Remember that that’s where the exiles came from, and apparently they’d picked up some bad habits there and had carried them into Israel. Sin doesn’t belong among God’s holy people, so he was taking steps to yank it out branch and root and take it back to the cesspool from where they'd gotten it.
Again, we’re not really sure about when the fulfillment here would take place. As usual, I tend to stick with the “partial now, complete later” motif: God would do a partial purge of his people in the very near future, and he’d do the ultimate cleansing when his Son returns to renew all things.
So we have individual dealings with sin in the first part, and then a national cleansing in the second half. One way or another, our Lord is going to deal with sin, from the hidden sins behind closed doors to the sins which everyone finds socially acceptable. Count on it.
Lord Jesus, when you cut me with your word, you cut deep, down to the bone, separating soul and spirit, joints and marrow. Thank you for both the cutting, and the healing.
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