ZECHARIAH 5: 1-4
THE FLYING SCROLL
(The Sixth Vision)
The first five visions are certainly prophecies of hope and of glory. They abound in most glorious promises of restoration and enlargement of temporal and spiritual prosperity and blessing. These promises in the full and exhaustive sense are still to be fulfilled, "When Yahweh shall arise and have mercy upon Zion and again choose Israel" (Isa. 14:1).
God has promised restoration but before that longed for day of blessing can come both the land and people must be cleansed from everything that defiles or works wickedness or swears falsely (CIT). (This is the thrust of the dark episode unfolded in the two visions of the fifth chapter). For covenant blessings may not be enjoyed without covenant obedience.
How will God deal with the sinner and the ungodly who reject His gospel covenant? The LORD of Hosts has two methods to deal with sin and remove iniquity, both of which are in perfect accord with the absolute holiness of His character. The preferred one is Grace, the other is Law. If a person refuses to accept Grace, which is so beautifully depicted in chapter three by the cleansing and clothing of Joshua, the representative of God's people, then the only other option is to be visited with severe punishment. When a sinner is so intertwined in his sin that he will not be separated from it, he will become an object of God's judgment and will be cleansed away from the earth. This thought is set forth in the two visions of chapter five. The prophecy has application to the restored remnant community, but again it goes beyond the immediate historical situation and portrays the unsparing destruction of sinners prior to the establishment of the millennium and the Messiah's justice during the millennium itself.
[God has promised restoration to the repentant remnant but before that period of blessing can dawn, God must deal with stubborn and unrepentant sinners. If the way of Grace is not accepted, judgment must come. Grace accepted but not followed results in an outbreak of sin and will be handled justly in the "rod of iron rule" of the Millennium (Ps. 2:9; Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).]
I. THE APPROACHING SCROLL, 1-2.
II. THE APPROACHING PURGE, 3-4.
I. THE APPROACHING SCROLL, 1-2.
The interest catching vision of the Fly Scroll is introduced in verse 1. Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold! A flying scroll!
The prophet was absorbed in a season of meditation probably concerning the wonderful things which had been presented to him in his previous visions. Now he senses in his spirit a new vision approaching. The lifting up of his eyes brings the blessing of a new vision into his perception. Behold! indicates that his attention was drawn to an object in an intense manner.
He sees a flying scroll. The Megillah ( -a roll or scroll) is the emblem of a message or pronouncement of solemn importance from God to man (Ezekiel 2:9-10). The ancients wrote on the inner bark of trees, rolls of papyrus and the dressed skins of animals - which is probably what is indicated here. [For ease of storage scrolls would be rolled up. Usually this was done by attaching sticks to the ends of the scroll and circling the material round them. As it was read, a scroll was rolled from one stick to the other so that only a small portion would be visible at any time.]
This flying scroll winging in flight like some bird of prey graphically symbolizes the active energy of the Word of God it represents. The scroll is flying in because its pronouncements will be swiftly carried out.
The interpreting angel asks the prophet to interpret what he sees in verse 2. And he said to me, "What do you see?" And I answered, "I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits."
The interpreting angel, desirous of leading the prophet to correctly understand what is involved asks him a question. The angel's question demands the prophet formulate words for what he sees. The prophet's effort to focus his attention is the first step toward a correct appropriation of the vision. We notice repeatedly in these visions how the interpreting angel keeps the prophet from mental laziness. Only as the prophet earnestly seeks will God let him find; according to the principal, "Seek and ye shall find."
After closer scrutiny of the facts the prophet reveals to us that the scroll was also spread out so it could be read and unrolled so its dimensions could be seen. The dimensions of the scroll which the prophet carefully notes are not without significances. 20 cubits long by 10 cubits wide (30 ft. x 15 ft. - that's one wide scroll) corresponds to both the porch of Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 6:3) and the Holy Place of the Tabernacle where the lampstand was found (remember they were building a temple). These are the places where prayers are offered by the priests, (Joel 2:17) and where the law was usually read.
The symbolism indicates if the forgiveness and law of the temple are not sought that the standard or measure of Divine Holiness will judge evildoers. It represents that the coming judgments are in accordance with the Holiness of the Lord's habitation. The place of mercy becomes for those who don't seek it the place of judgment. Such a bold, clear pronouncement of punishment for sin should spur people to repentance and righteousness.
II. THE APPROACHING PURGE, 3-4.
The interpreting angel tells Zechariah the significance of what he is seeing in verse 3. Then he said to me, "This is the curse that is going forth over the face of the whole earth; surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side."
What was written on this scroll may be inferred from the words "This is the curse." The curse (ha-alah), means the punishment or retribution which falls upon those who affront God's infinite holiness by breaking His Word and Law symbolized by the scroll.
The use of the word ‘curse' probably references the covenant (Mal. 3:9). The covenant created a bond between the LORD and His people. To maintain that bond-relationship they had to obey God's commands. Such obedience brought blessing. If they disobeyed the LORD's commands, they violated the covenant relationship and incurred the curse of divine displeasure. This had been vividly brought before the people in the ceremony where the blessings were proclaimed from Mount Gerizim and the curses from Mount Ebal (Deut. 11:26-29; 27:12-13; Josh. 8:33-34). [Mackay, Eph 4, Zechariah, ]
This curse might be the awful catalogue of curses which Moses foretold would come upon Israel for their disobedience. These curses, recorded in Deuteronomy 28:15-60, are spoken of in Deuteronomy 31 in the singular as "the curse." Or the curse could be associated with the breaking of the Ten Commandments as the tablet was also written on both sides (Exodus 32:15). Here the curse is specifically the judgment that was threatening those who disdained the requirements of God in their living.
Such a large scroll must have contained more than the two transgressions which are specified. The two indicated are the breaking of the third and eighth commandments. Since the curse references commandments toward God and man it could also indicate the breaking of the summation of commandments. "Thy shall love the Lord thy God with all mind, soul, thy might." And the other side is the judgment against the transgressors toward man summarized in the command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self." Thus the curse could be taken for as individual commandments or as the summary of the whole law. It is better seen as representative of the whole law. But in any case, one who stumbles at just one point of the law is guilty of breaking the whole law (Jas. 2:10).
The effect of this curse is very dreadful. The law breakers will be purged away, cleansed out, cut off or banished from the land of the living. The extent of this curse is the whole earth, not just Israel. [But we must always remember that judgment begins with the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17f)]. Wherever law-breakers are they are not too far for the curse of God to find them. Against all chronic transgressors the scroll goes forth and is therefore seen flying--that is, traveling rapidly over the whole land and signifying the swiftness with which the judgment of God's will finally overtake the wicked. O, if the world would but believe the curse is coming upon the wicked then they might mourn and repent and turn to God so that He could justify them by His dear Son.
The curse of the broken covenant was no idle threat. What was written on the scroll is not stated, but the results of its message are given in verse 4. "I will make it go forth," declares the Lord of Hosts, "and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name, and it will spend the night within that house and consume it with its timbers and stones."
The fourth verse is one of the most solemn in the whole Bible for it shows what an awful thing it is to come under God's curse against sin (not against man). The LORD will not exemption those who have slighted His covenant. The sending of God's curse means it has become operative.
Two classes of evildoers are singled out as being about to be cut off as a result of the God's curse. These two classes, thieves and perjurers, are mentioned by way of illustration, not with the thought that others would be allowed to continue in their sins. [Terrible judgment is in store for those who swear falsely by God's name which could mean those that claim a relationship with God that they do not have.]
"I will cause it to go forth" indicates that the scroll which is already on its way will be caused by the LORD of Hosts to enter the house of the wicked. The curse will lodge in the house until it has accomplished the destruction for which it was sent. I will cause meaning the Lord Himself will bring forth the curse. So here we see the certainty which God's judgments will finally overtake the wicked. Man may avoid detection of his sins and his due punishment before his fellow man, but he cannot escape God. "Be sure your sins will find you out" and so will its inevitable punishment. In our present age of grace and divine patience with the sins of men, while the gospel of salvation is proclaimed, God is for the most part silent to the blasphemies and crimes of ungodly sinners until the time of the restoration of all things, which God has spoken of by the mouth of His prophets since the world began (Acts 3:21). Criminals are often undetected in their crimes and may even seem to prosper but be assured that divine judgment will one day be rapid and complete.
"It shall enter the house of the thief." Here the judgment is unescapable. In the place where the transgressor may think that he can hide, where he thinks himself most secure, he will find that God's avenging justice cannot be kept out, even by high walls, steel gates and the most sophisticated security system.
The designation thief is not limited to those who steal from God by refusing to give Him His due tithes (Nehemiah 13 and Malachi 3:8) but all who are guilty of theft including those who stole their life by refusing to heed the owner of all.
God will not spare the sinner He finds among His own people, if they have sworn falsely by His name and entered by another way than the door of salvation which is Jesus Christ.
"And it will spend the night within that house." The curse will not just pay him a passing visit but it shall lodge there until it accomplishes that for which it was sent--it's utter destruction. There will be no getting rid of the curse till it has done its purging work.
The description, "And consume it with its timbers and stones" emphasizes the thoroughness of divine judgment on those who made light of the edicts of the King of Heaven. The terribleness of the punishment which sin brings down upon itself will extend even to the destruction of the building blocks of their homes. [Even the Temple stones had largely survived the fire lit by the Babylonians.] There are no half measures when God acts.
The terms used here are almost identical to those used of a house stricken with leprosy in Leviticus 14:45. The illusion is to what that terrible and loathsome disease did for men's bodies and their earthly houses, sin does for men's souls and spirits as well. Thus the curse will not only cause the physical bodies of the wicked to perish but it will completely consume their dwelling as well. The LORD'S curse is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the righteous' (Prov. 3:33).
The holiness of God should be reflected in His people. ‘As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy"' (1 Pet.1:14-16). The consequence of building the Temple and thus seeking to have God dwell in their midst, the Jews needed to ensure that all evil was expelled from the land. ‘You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell' (Ps. 5:4). The same requirement still holds. ‘We are the temple of the living God' (2 Cor. 6:16), and there can be no alliance with wickedness and the wicked one. [Mackay, Eph. 4, Zechariah, ]
Sin is an intensely personal undertaking and God's visitation upon it will be equally personal. There is only one way by which we can escape the curse of a broken law, so that we don't have to be purged away with our sins by God's wrath into perdition, and that way is to be cleansed from our sins in that fountain which God has opened in the pierced side of the Messiah for our sins and which makes the vilest "whiter than snow." Blessed be God for all of us who can say "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written cursed is he that hangeth on a tree." Gal. 3:13