5 I looked again, and there before me was a flying scroll.
2 He asked me, “What do you see?”
I answered, “I see a flying scroll, twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide.”
3 And he said to me, “This is the curse that is going out over the whole land; for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished, and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished. 4 The Lord Almighty declares, ‘I will send it out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name. It will remain in that house and destroy it completely, both its timbers and its stones.’”
(Zechariah 5:1-4 NIV)
Let’s take a look at the visions that the Lord gave to Zechariah the prophet so far:
- Peace on earth
- Favor with God and divine retribution (punishment) for wrongs done to Israel
- Protection from enemies
- A righteous spiritual leader (Joshua the high priest) who models what Messiah will be like
- A godly governor (Zerubbabel) who will finish the rebuilding of the Temple
Chapter 5 contains two visions (#7 and #8). These two visions deal with evil and sin in Israel. These two visions are the corresponding internal equivalents to visions #2 and #3.
Vision 6 (verses 1 – 4) spells out the God’s divine retribution (punishment) done to Israel by its own people. Vision #2 was about people outside Israel; vision #6 is about people inside Israel, those under God’s covenant care.
Zechariah begins by telling the angel what he sees – a giant flying scroll with writing on it. The scroll was 15 feet high and 30 feet long. If you want to do the math, a cubit a linear measure, and is 18 inches long.
The angel then tells Zechariah the contents of the scroll (naming two ungodly actions) and the curse (punishment) associated with each ungodly action.
The first ungodly action is stealing (being a thief). These ungodly actions were primarily pointed at other people. Thievery could take many forms – wrongs against their neighbors such as actual theft, taking another’s life, hurtful words, or damaging their reputation.
The second ungodly action is swearing falsely (making an oath or promise before the Lord and not following through). This ungodly action is primarily pointed at the Lord. Examples of this would be promising to help rebuild the Temple but not actually showing up to help, or promising to give money or possessions to help rebuild the Temple and not actually making the donation.
If we take in the larger perspective of these wrongs, we see a similar pattern to the Ten Commandments (Exodus chapter 20). Half of the Ten Commandments dealt with the Israelites’ relationship with God, and the other half dealt with the Israelites’ relationships with each other.
Verse 3 said that the scroll had writing on both sides. This could either be literally on both sides of the scroll (as in both sides of a piece of paper), or it could mean the writing was in two columns (similar to the Ten Commandments being etched side-by-side on two stone tablets). Regardless of the format, the size was enormous; everyone could see. There was no fine print here – the text was larger than life.
So what was the curse? Being banished (cut off) from Jewish society and from God’s covenant care and blessings.
In verse 4, the Lord points out the power of His Word. His Word would go out on its own, without human agents to carry it out, and it would execute judgment on the guilty. The Israelites’ offenses against God and against each other would be dealt with by God; the punishment would fit the offense.
As I understand this vision, God is talking about unrepentant sin, where the person is confronted with the sin and refuses to humble themselves and ask forgiveness.
May we keep short accounts with the Lord and with each other.
In Psalm 139, David acknowledges that God knows more about us than we know about ourselves. David ends his thoughts with the following:
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)
May we take the time and allow the Lord to give us a “heart check” today.