Summary: There is often sin in the camp, but the One who wants us to return to Him has promised to take it out.
Text: Zechariah 5:1-11
Title: When There Is Sin In The Camp Type: Expository
Purpose: Encourage hearer to let sin go.
Main Idea: God is taking sin out; we must let that sin go.
Opening: Sin In The Camp. During my first few years of Bible college, I spent my summers working at a Christian camp (Christian Acres). I was the groundskeeper and general maintenance guy of this camp. It was a hazardous job; there were lots of hurtful things which could and did happen to me as I did this work. I got poison ivy quite often (eight times one summer). I got all sorts of bumps and bruises and cuts (I still have the scar from one of those on my right hand). I wrenched my back terribly on one occasion; that took years to fully heal. I got stung by every kind of bee there is (honeybee, bumblebee, yellow jacket, hornet, wasp). The most hazardous thing about this job, though, the most potentially-harmful thing on the campgrounds, was people. For eight hot weeks, the camp staff spent all day every day with each other (much more than just eight hours; often fourteen or more hours (6 AM to 8 PM or so). As you can imagine, this resulted in us having enough of each other/getting sick of each other and thus becoming short-tempered with each other. There were a lot of short-tempered incidents which occurred, but there is one I remember in particular. There was some sort of exchange between the head lifeguard and somebody else (I can’t remember who). Now I did not witness this exchange, but I heard about it. The head lifeguard came into our dining room after this exchange and told us all about it. She told us with great emotion what this person had said to her. But then she told us that she had not responded to what this person had said to her. She said that she did not respond because any response she would have given would have been angry, insulting, unlike Jesus. She put it this way; she said “I didn’t respond to him. If I did, there would be sin in the camp.”
That was the phrase she used: sin in the camp. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that phrase or not. It is a phrase used to describe some sort of sinfulness in God’s family, some sort of transgression in the church, some sort of iniquity in the Body. And this is the phrase the head lifeguard used after that incident/exchange. This is what she was trying to avoid when angered by that person. This is what she knew would have happened if she had responded to that person. There would be “sin in the camp”; she would be bringing sin into the camp. It is a phrase that fit us perfectly, as we literally were a camp (I didn’t realize that until I typed it out, but that idea fit us particularly perfectly; it works for the church at large but it really worked for us).
It is fit/worked for the postexilic/restoration community, the community of Israelites who returned from the Babylonian exile to restore Jerusalem, as well. There was sin in that camp, too. You would think there wouldn’t be (I would think that, anyway). You would think these people would not sin, would be the holiest people there were, bona fide saints (sinless, pure, perfectly righteous). After all, they were the ones accepting hardship in order to do the will of God. And yet they weren’t perfectly righteous. They were sinful to some degree; there was sinfulness among them, iniquity in them, transgression in their midst. They were a camp as well, far more of a camp than Israel had even been since the days of Joshua, and there was sin in that camp.
And God turns to address that sin in the camp as He continues speaking to the people through the prophet Zechariah.
Read Zechariah 5:1-11
When There Is Sin In The Camp. That’s what the prophet Zechariah is telling us about here in Zechariah 5. That’s what God is telling the prophet Zechariah here (I don’t know how confused Zechariah is here, but he certainly seems surprised) and that’s what God is telling us through the prophet Zechariah here. When there is sin in the camp. What to do when there is sin in the camp. Maybe what to let happen when there is sin in the camp.
Again, you know by now what we have here in Zechariah 5. These are more of those “night visions” Zechariah received from God on February 24, 519 BC. Zechariah received eight visions on that night, each of which had its own message but all of which together had a larger message about God blessing the postexilic restoration community, a larger message which further supported the thematic message of the book, “Return to Me.” These are the sixth and seventh of those eight night visions. The NIV calls them “The Flying Scroll” and “The Woman In The Basket”, which are good enough names, I guess. And they really go together or at least complement each other (I thought the first and second went together, and I think these two go together as well). They go together or complement each other because they both deal with something that hasn’t really been dealt with in the night visions yet (not this directly, at least). They both deal with sin. They both deal with that sin in the camp idea.