In His most holy word, God provides many promises of blessing to give to His people hope and strengthen their faith. He also provides many warnings to keep them on the right path. The warnings are just as important as the promises. We need not only the healing ointment, but also the sharp surgeon’s scalpel. Just as we are encouraged by the promises, we are made to be more aware of our sins and keener to reject them in true repentance when we are reminded of God’s judgment against sinners. In chapter 5 of Zechariah, God’s people are warned of pending judgment through two word-pictures. They serve as an illustration of that truth expressed in 1 Peter 5:7, that judgment begins with the household of God.
Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.
2 And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.
3 Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.
4 I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.
A scroll the size of a billboard flies through the air, portending the judgment that is written for sin. This represents the just sentence of God upon evil-doers. Through His prophets and apostles, God has warned the entire human race of His judgment against sin. This judgment is written in the law of God, which was recorded on a scroll in ancient times. Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. Deuteronomy 27:26 Two sins in particular are highlighted in this word-picture: that of stealing, or acquiring goods or riches by deceit and falsehood, and that of swearing falsely, that is, making an oath with God as witness and not keeping ones word. The latter sin is committed directly against God, the former against ones fellow man. (Although truly all sin is committed against God.) All sin falls into one of these two categories of sin: sin against God, and sin against the fellow man. God’s judgment is coming on the whole earth for sin, for His law has now been preached in every corner of the globe, and even for those who have not yet heard, the law of the Creator is written upon their hearts, leaving them without excuse for their sins against God and man. (Romans 1:20)
How often have we, as Christians, been guilty of mistreating our fellow human being, of coveting what is his or defrauding our neighbor of what belonged to him? How often have we failed to give God the honor due His name by not keeping our promises spoken in His presence? Let us as God’s people shun and depart from sins against God and neighbor, knowing that judgment is coming upon the whole world. Let us return and repent. What a shame would it be if we who have taken His name, heard His word, and known His presence became partakers of judgment with those who have never known God? (Ephesians 5:7)
5 Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth.
6 And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth.
7 And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.
8 And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof.
9 Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven.
10 Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah?
11 And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.
This word from the prophet Zechariah was spoken after the Jewish nation had already been taken away in captivity to Babylon, in the land of Shinar, and were now already returned to the land of Judah. God represents the wickedness of his people by a woman who is carried away in an ephah, a large flour basket. She is trapped and possibly killed by a heavy weight of lead. She will be carried away again to captivity by two women with wings like storks. But unlike the first time, captive in Babylon for 70 years, she will never be restored again, but rather will be “established, and set there upon her own base.” She will be carried away never to return. God represents the wickedness of His people Judah and warns them of what is going to come. Probably this second exile is a foretelling of the captivity of the Jews under the Romans and their dispersion in 70 A. D. after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Although God’s judgment is upon the whole world, it starts in His own household, 1 Peter 5:7 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? The wicked from among His people will be taken away never to return to the blessing and promise that God has promised to those who are faithful to His covenant.
As the Church of Jesus Christ, gathered out of the world unto Zion, His holy city, the place of His presence on earth among His people, we are the household of God. Let repentance begin with us God’s people, for if we get lazy and begin to pursue the allurements of the world and the dictates of our own sinful flesh, we will lose the promise while many others are hearing and obeying the good news. We who have enjoyed God’s promise will be separated and cut off from it entirely if we allow ourselves to be followers of sin rather than followers of God as He has expressed Himself in His word. Let us rather, depending entirely and prayerfully on His grace, return to the Lord, turning from our pet sins to obey the living God.
When God says, Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings, let us say, Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 3:22)
When writing this devotional, I got some ideas from the notes of the ESV study Bible and from Matthew Henry’s commentary.