weekly Word – 1/04/24

Zechariah’s Sixth Vision

As we’ve gone through Zechariah’s first five visions, God has foretold the future of Jerusalem twice. In the third vision, God showed what Jerusalem would be like long in the future of the messianic kingdom. In the fifth vision, God showed what the city would be like shortly, with a rebuilt Temple.

But in this little vision, God reveals what Jerusalem is like in the present day of Zechariah’s time. And it’s not good:

I looked up again and saw a flying scroll.

“What do you see? ” he asked me.

“I see a flying scroll,” I replied, “thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide.”

Then he said to me, “This is the curse that is going out over the whole land, for everyone who is a thief, contrary to what is written on one side, has gone unpunished, and everyone who swears falsely, contrary to what is written on the other side, has gone unpunished. I will send it out,” — this is the declaration of the Lord of Armies — “and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by my name. It will stay inside his house and destroy it along with its timbers and stones.” 

Zechariah 5:1-4 (CSB)

Put shortly, the land of Jerusalem (and perhaps some nearby cities as well) is currently under a curse. This means that God had cut off the people from spiritual, economic, and political blessing. Read Haggai 1:6-11 for a summary of this curse on those returned exiles. God’s criteria for blessing, according to Deuteronomy 28, is that the people must keep their covenant with Him. If they don’t, He promises to remove blessing after blessing until the nation is utterly destroyed.

How are the people of Zechariah’s time being unfaithful? God shows Zechariah the answer in a a scroll measuring thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide. Commentator Al Wolters writes, “This is roughly the size of many of the billboards found along the highways of North America.” The massive sign should communicate God’s message clearly: the people are unfaithful in two major ways.

First, verse 3 says that everyone who is a thief has gone unpunished. Second, it also says everyone who swears falsely has gone unpunished.

Why are these two sins pointed out by God? Dr. Charles Feinberg writes that these two violations are the middle commandments the first and second group of the 10 commandments. “After the analogy of the tables of the law, the scroll was written on both sides. The swearing falsely by God’s name broke the middle commandment of the first table containing duties toward God; the stealing was an infraction of the middle commandment of the second table, comprising duties toward man.” If his thesis is true, that means that the returned exiles were not only largely disobedient to God’s law, there was no punishment given for such disobedience in the land.

God’s final message is clear. He will send his curse on each person who is acting sinfully, “and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by my name. It will stay inside his house and destroy it along with its timbers and stones.” In other words, God is saying, “If you won’t judge each other, I will do it myself!” God is personally promising each unprotected sinner that He will bring destruction upon their house.

What’s the lesson for us? I can think of no better passage to harmonize with this vision than 1 Corinthians 11:31, “If we were properly judging ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined, so that we may not be condemned with the world.” That means that God values the testimony of His church so much that when it permits sin, He protects His holy name by bringing discipline directly on those of His body who are in sin.

The answer for us is to hold ourselves accountable to each other. Do you have another Christian in your life with whom you share your struggles against sin? I hope you do. If not, you need to find someone of the same sex whom you trust, meet with him or her regularly, and encourage each other both in studying God’s word and confessing sins before they become a pattern. If we judged ourselves properly in this way, the church will experience the blessing of God, rather than His discipline.

Pastor David