THE BOOK OF ZECHARIAH
Wickedness Will Take Over
Zechariah 5 3/13/11 SCC
We often wonder how our children or our grandchildren will ever make it in this world. It seems that every generation talks as if their day was a whole lot better than the one coming. And we usually mean that things are getting worse not better. In our day life was easier, less complicated, less vulnerable, less risky. Today daily life is at the mercy of what happens in Afghanistan or Libya. How can our children and grandchildren ever hope to live peacefully and with any sense of hope? Legitimate questions especially when we peer into the pages of scripture. God’s Word indicates that as we approach the end of all things, wickedness and evil will increase and splurge. We must not count on things being or getting better in the world. Zechariah learns that this wickedness is noticed and checked by God. That while it increases God’s plan is to contain it, counter it, and then destroy it. The prophet tells of two specific ways God will do this, by means of the vision of the flying scroll and the Ephah.
GOD WILL PUNISH WICKEDNESS
The Flying Scroll 1-2 Here is the description of a flying scroll. It measures 30 ft by 15 ft. The scroll is moving across the sky over the entire land of Israel. It is not rolled up but spread out like a long sheet. The normal size of a scroll may be 8 or so inches wide and several feet long. This one may be similar in length but much larger in width. A point may be to make this scroll and what is written on it visible to those it passes over. Its floating position will give this scroll and its message swift access to where it needs to be delivered.
The Message and Mission of the Flying Scroll 3-4 First, this scroll brings a curse over the entire land. This curse is directed toward violators of the middle command of each set of the 10 commandments represented by the two tablets of the Law given in Ex 32:15. The writing on both sides of the scroll is reminiscent of language describing the two tablets. Specifically mentioned are the 3rd and 8th commandments. The first commandments mentioned are the 8th commandment against stealing and then the 3rd commandment against swearing falsely by the name of the Lord. Swearing falsely represents man’s sin against God and stealing is a sin of man against man. These violators of these commands probably represent violations of the entire Law of Moses. So these two specific violations represent the whole law being violated and spurned. This is how it has been amongst the people of the nation.
Second, these violations have prompted a purging. Twice this purpose is indicated in v 3. What this purging is all about is spelled out in v 4. The scroll, God says, is something he has sent out. He is its author both in its message and mission. We have seen its message—pointing out violations and violators of the Law—but it is also a weapon by which God will judge his obstinate people. Wielded by God this scroll will enter the house of the thief and the blasphemer to purge these out of the covenant community. But this purging is not only severe it will be total and complete. It will stay the night—that is stay until its intended purpose of banishment is accomplished—and then demolish that house until there is no evidence that it existed. God knows even the very secrets done in the house. Not even those secret sins will go unpunished.
Lesson The scroll as the covenant Word of God contains the message that judges, punishes, and then ruins all human efforts which defy God’s Word. Those violators breaking this covenant will find that his and her sins against God and against men will eventually and unavoidably lead to utter devastation. God will punish wickedness. The judgment of God will be about our mistreatment of each other and our mistreatment of God. No one will get away with this. (Marion, a widow, is being purposefully harassed by ex-husbands family so she cannot get inheritance he left to her). The justice of God will include every detail of our lives. It will ‘spend the night’ and search out all out secrets. That includes stealing and blaspheming Gods name. In the Bible people tried to hide disobedience (Adam), idolatry, (In Ezekiel), murder (Cain), stealing (Achan), adultery (David), and lying (Ananias/Sapphira). Romans 2:16 in that day God will judge the secrets of men. Guard your heart (2 Cor 10:5), watch out for attack (1 Pt 5:8, Be strong in the Lord (Eph 6:10-110, and know there are no secrets (Eph 5:11-13).
GOD WILL REMOVE WICKEDNESS
The Woman in the Ephah 5-8 Now the prophet’s attention is directed toward a measuring basket with the capacity of 5-10 gallons. Since this is too small to contain a person, this ephah in the vision is enlarged much like the scroll was in the previous one. This ephah is also going forth as the scroll did appearing in all the land. The ephah going forth is identified as wickedness in the following. So this basket represents the iniquity or the attempt to assert wickedness in all the land. Using a measuring basket to symbolize the corporate evil of the land is appropriate since one of those evils was tampering with the measures to make false ones. Here is sin connected to the commerce in all the land. This kind of sin was prevalent everywhere one went in the land. The cover of this basket was of lead most likely to ensure that whatever wickedness was in there stayed there. (Story this week of police working an apartment of a deceased young lady. They discovered after opening a box and unexpectedly confronted with a cobra quickly replaced the top and promptly found seven of the most venomous snakes in the world in separate containers. In a sense these contained wickedness that we want contained.) The messenger goes on to point out that when the cover is lifted there was ‘a woman’ sitting in the ephah. It is when the cover is raised that she becomes visible to the prophet. Again, the impossibility of such a thing heightens the point that this vision is of divine origin with a unique message to convey.
Finally in v 8 she is identified as ‘wickedness’ personified. She represents the moral condition encompassing all kinds of civil, religious, and personal wickedness and evil. That this woman is dangerous is immediately apparent for as soon as her name is pronounced he slams the heavy cover down over the ephah to ensure she does not escape. The urgency of the moment is captured as the messenger threw the woman in to the ephah and then threw the lead weight over the opening. The reason for this lead cover is now clear. This ephah is not only a way to move her form one place to another but also a cage in which wickedness will be carried off against her will. There is no way this opening can be tampered with form the inside. She is securely caged and ready for transport.
The Removal of the Ephah 9-11 Once this is done the ehpah takes wings and begins its flight. Two other women with wings of a stork carry the ephah away v 9. A stork was an unclean bird (Lev 11). This seems appropriate since it coveys unclean cargo in addition to the huge size of storks wings. The ephah was lifted up with the wind in its wings. What they are doing is made possible by resources outside of its natural abilities. The wind in these wings refers to the spirit of God as with Zerrubabel and the building of the Temple so now was at work transporting wickedness to her destination. This purged wickedness, judged, and caged, is now being transported from the land to its original destination.
At a loss to understand Zechariah asks and learns that its destination is the land of Shinar v 11. There a house or temple will be built for it and she will be placed on her own pedestal—a throne. Shinar is the recent place of Israel’s exile but
also the site of ancient and future immorality and rebellion against God (Gen 11:2; Rev 17:3-5). So this wickedness is returning to the very place of its origin and climax, Babylon. Reference to Shinar is tantamount to reference to Babylon. It is that city which becomes the very incarnation of human independence and resistance to God, His will, and sovereignty.
1. It was at Babylon that the human race erected a large pyramid to frustrate Gods mandate to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth (Gen 1:28; 9:1). Men of Babylon wanted to make a name for themselves lest they be scattered across the face of the earth (Gen 11:4). From that time Babylon became synonymous with human arrogance and the fountainhead of competitive social, and religious ideology.
2. The leader of the campaign of eastern kings against Canaan and Abraham was the king of Shinar (Gen 14:1). This was the first act of aggression against the people of God by a hostile power.
3. The Babylonian empire of 627 BC made it evident that the ancient archenemy of God in days of old would again rear its ugly head in history to challenge Gods salvation on earth through his chosen people. Even for the prophets, Babylon as the center of Jewish dispersion is very much their theme (Isaiah 13-14, 47; Jeremiah 50-51). The prophets viewed Babylon as the paradigm of wickedness and hostility toward God’s gracious purposes.
4. Zechariah’s Babylon though is exclusively future. By now Babylon had been swallowed up by Persia. This same Babylon is pictured in Revelation 17-18. There she is called the ‘great harlot’ the ‘great city that reigns over the kings of the earth’. Then destruction so devastating, compared to the casting of a huge millstone into the sea from which it can never be retrieved. This describes the immorality and prosperity of Antichrist’s empire right up to its end. It will never deteriorate but will suddenly be destroyed in a moment by Jesus Christ, at His Second Coming.
5. Zechariah takes his place in a long tradition regarding Shinar, Babylon, and rebellion. The wickedness in the Ephah is being transported to Shinar returning where it belongs from where it originally came. It had dogged the steps of God’s people leading at last to their destruction and captivity at its hands. But in the day of restoration God will remove wickedness from His land forcing it to return and await its ultimate destruction.
Lesson Look for a future world economic prosperity based in wickedness and centered in Babylon. Attempting to get rich—not being rich or becoming rich due to success of some kind—will always compromise with this world’s evil system and contributes to that independent spirit that competes with God’s place in our lives. It is dependence upon God and not independence upon our own resources that keeps us humble and in God’s favor. God will not tolerate competition.