Zechariah 5 – preached on 6 Nov 2011
I have been preaching from the book of Zechariah and today we come to chapter 5.
Let me refresh your memory on the context of the situation.
It was around 520 BC.
Some Jews have returned from Babylon in an attempt to rebuild Jerusalem & the temple.
They faced all kinds of opposition from their enemies.
They did not manage to make much headway in their work.
Some have turned their attention to building their own homes instead
There was great discouragement and a great sense of sin & guilt.
Some may be thinking, even if we can rebuild the temple, will God accept it?
What’s the point of continuing?
It was in this context that these visions were given to Zechariah.
So far, we’ve gone through 5 visions from chapters 1-4.
Those visions were generally “encouraging and instructive” in nature and I hope you have been encouraged by them.
But today, the 2 visions here in chapter 5 were warnings against sins.
The Bible is very balanced.
Whenever the love of God is preached, we must also be reminded of the wrath of God.
Whenever encouragement is given, it should also come with rebuke and warnings if this is necessary.
And the key lesson for us to take home from the 2 visions here in Zech 5 is this:
“We should have reverence for God and be afraid to sin against Him”.
We should have reverence for God because God is holy.
We should have reverence for God because He is our Creator.
We should be afraid to sin against Him because if He is against us, there is no hope for us.
Yes, in Jesus Christ, there is pardon for sin
But sin is NOT to be tolerated because God hates sin.
And it is the providence of God that all of you are hearing Zechariah 5 today.
If there is anyone who has not repented of any known sin, may God speak to you.
May God grant you the repentance that you need so that you can draw near to Him.
Now, there are 2 visions in chapter 5.
The first vision from verses 1-4 addresses individual sins.
The second vision from verses 5-11 addresses communal, corporate or national sins.
For each of the visions, we shall answer the following questions:
1) what did Zechariah see and hear?
2) what did the vision mean in Zechariah’s day and age?
3) what are the applications of the vision for us today?
Let’s start with the first vision: v1-4 the vision of the flying scroll.
What did Zechariah see?
He saw a flying scroll – verse 2.
In those days, they don’t have books.
Everything that was written, was recorded on scrolls.
It looks something like this: with a rolling pin on each side, you roll it to the portion of the parchment you want to read.
And we are told that this scroll was 20 cubits long and 10 cubits wide.
What is this scroll all about.
In verse 3, we are told that it represents a curse.
It is a curse that will go out to every thief and every perjurer.
A perjurer is a liar or an untruthful person.
This curse will go into the house of the thief – verse 4.
It will go into the house of the one who swears falsely by God’s name.
And it will remain there.
And it will consume the entire house.
The timber and stones of that house will be gone – thoroughly destroyed.
That was what Zechariah saw and heard.
What does the vision mean in Zechariah’s day and age?
In the days of Zechariah, there were 2 great sins that the people were dealing with.
In Haggai 1:9 (Haggai is the book just before Zechariah), God says to the people:
“You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away.
Why? says the LORD of host. Because of My house that is in ruins, while everyone of you runs to his own house.”
The Jews had come back from Babylon with a promise that they will rebuild the temple and Jerusalem.
But instead of giving to the needs of the temple construction, they have kept their tithes for themselves.
Instead of giving their attention to building the temple, they are building their own homes.
And in this way, they were thieves and they were perjurers.
They have stolen from God what is rightfully His.
They have broken their promise of coming back to build the temple.
Now, they are caring for their own homes instead.
They were effectively living for themselves and not the God who brought them out of Babylon.
And the word of God which was written on scrolls in those days is flying right at them.
This flying scroll has the exact dimensions of the temple porch which the Jews were constructing at that time.
So it comes with the weight and authority of the God of the temple that they were constructing.
You cannot and you must not treat your duty to God lightly.
No sin is trivial in the eyes of God who is Holy and divine.
Do not think that no one knows because you are just one of the many who is constructing their own home.
Your sin will find you out – Numbers 32:23.
Do not think it is a trivial matter that you keep for yourself what is due to God.
Because that flying scroll will go into every house as a curse.
You can’t treat God and His law like this.
God will come after you and bring ruin to you and you will never have His blessing upon you.
You should have reverence for God and be afraid to sin against Him.
What does all these mean for us in this day and age?
Well, first of all, we must remember that Christians are not called to build a physical temple.
All the imageries of salvation portrayed in temple worship in the old testament have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Instead, Christians are called out of the world to build the Church.
1 Pet 2:9 tells us that “we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that we may proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light”.
Christians are called to establish the worship of God on earth.
We are to give of our lives to the service and work of God required in the Church.
So, if instead of doing this, we spend our time and money on our own pursuits, we have neglected our duty as Christians.
I am not saying that everyone should go into full-time ministry.
That is a special calling for a select few.
But every Christian who professes faith in Jesus Christ should be clearly committed to work related to the building up of the Church.
First, you must seek to build up your own faith – your understanding of the scriptures, your spiritual life.
Then you should give of your time and resources to build up the faith of the fellow believers around you.
If that is not your commitment as a Christian, then it is a duty you have neglected.
And I want to tell you today that neglecting Christian duties is not a trivial matter.
Exodus 4:24-26 is a passage which I could not understand for some time.
For it speaks of God going after Moses & wanting to kill him when he was on his way to Egypt to bring the Israelites out.
Why would God go after Moses?
I realised that it was because of a duty neglected.
Moses did not circumcise his son.
Does this sound trivial to you?
It was only when Zipporah stepped in and did the job for Moses that the wrath of God was appeased.
Let this is be a solemn reminder to us.
When we continue to tolerate a known sin in our life, you cannot expect to be at peace with God.
When we leave spiritual duties undone, God may be against us.
What is your level of commitment to the work of God in this Church?
Do you care enough for the worship of God that you make it a point to be here early every Sunday morning?
Early enough to prepare yourself because you are meeting with our Holy God?
Do you care enough for the preaching of God’s word that you pray regularly for the preaching and teaching ministry?
Are you building up yourself spiritually so that you can be useful in building up the Church of God?
Let us examine ourselves and let us not have God come after us because of duties neglected.
Let’s move on to the second vision from verses 5-11: the vision of the woman in a basket.
This vision is a warning against communal, corporate or national sins
What did Zechariah see and hear?
Zechariah saw a basket that was about to be taken away – verse 6.
And this is happening throughout the earth – which is what the 2nd part of verse 6 was referring to.
Now, I am aware that some bible versions use the word “ephah” instead of the word “basket”.
Essentially, we are referring to a measuring container here
The use of the word “ephah” actually refers to a container that is about 21 litres in size.
To help you visualise, this is about the size of a big dustbin.
In those days, the people would use such a basket as a measure of the fruits or grain that they carry.
On this basket was a lead cover – this is what verse 7 tells us.
And sitting in the basket was a woman.
So who is this woman?
Verse 8 tells us that the woman represented wickedness.
And she was thrust into the basket and the lead cover just shut her down.
Then there were 2 other women with wings who came & lifted the basket and took it away – v 9.
Where were they carrying the basket to? – Zechariah asked in verse 10.
And the angel replied in verse 11:
“To buid a house for it in the land of Shinar; when it is ready, the basket will be set there on its base”.
Shinar is another name for Babylon.
That was where the Jews returned from.
That was the place they will never want to be at.
Because they just returned from being slaves in Babylon.
And Babylon represented misery, defeat, suffering, punishment and everything in hell
that you can associate with.
And this basket containing wickedness will be brought there.
And just like when you are constructing a house, this basket will be set there permanently.
As the cement base dries, this basket will become permanently there in Shinar.
That was what Zechariah saw and heard.
What does this vision mean to the people in Zechariah’s day & age and what does it mean to us today?
Very simply, it reminds us again that “We should have reverence for God and be afraid to sin against Him”.
Let us first draw applications at the individual level.
Sin cannot be tolerated.
God has His level of patience with us
He speaks to us through many different ways.
Through nature, through His word, through preaching, our parents, our friends, happy occasions, tragic incidents, success, failures, sickness, health and through our conscience.
And each time we refuse to obey Him, this wickedness of ours get thrusted into this basket.
And this basket gets filled up as we continue in our wickedness.
And if we still refuse to repent and want to live for ourselves, we may just be breaching the level of patience that God has for us.
And the lead cover will come down upon us when we cross that invisible line.
And the measure of our sin will then be complete & off goes the basket to the land of Shinar where it will never return.
The word of God tells us clearly here that we must have reverence for God and be afraid to sin against Him.
If we have been guilty of testing the patience of God, let us repent immediately.
Let us ensure that we do not cross that invisible line of God’s tolerance.
What applications are there at the Church level?
In Rev 2-3, Jesus sounded out different warnings to the 7 Churches in Asia.
5 out of the 7 Churches were rebuked for their conscious tolerance of evil.
Some Churches were referred to as being neither hot or cold in their faith.
And Jesus specifically warned the Church in Ephesus in Rev 2:5 that “He will remove the lampstand from its place – unless you repent”.
Can this really happen to a Church?
Well, in Church history, you will find churches that existed and then disappeared.
They held good confessions of faith; they had good preaching and yet they disappeared.
There could be reasons I do not know, but one possibility is that sin was tolerated.
Perhaps the leaders did not want to be unpopular and refused to deal with the situation.
And after some time, the Church lost its witness as light to the world.
Oh, let us pray that we will not face with such a situation
Let us repent while God gives us the opportunity.
Let us not have the “flying scroll” come in a ruin us
For God says, “return to me and I will return to you.” – Zech 1:3
Finally, let us draw some applications at the national level.
Remember what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen 18 & 19?
God says in Gen 18:20 “..the outcry against Sodom & Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave..”
He remained patient with them for a while.
Abraham attempted to intercede for these nations.
But God ran out of patience with Sodom & Gomorrah.
And these 2 cities were wiped out from the surface of the earth altogether.
The world constantly lives as if God did not exist
They live in pursuit of all kinds of pleasures and earthly treasures.
They damage God’s creation and have no regard for the Creator who made them.
Do you think God indifferent to this?
No. God has his ephah or measuring basket all around the world – That’s what verse 6 tells us.
And wickedness is being thrusted into this basket.
God may appear to be tolerant to such evil currently.
But the day will come when God runs out of patience with them, the lead cover will come down on the basket.
And this basket will be taken to the land of Shinar or Babylon and it will be set there forever.
So do not envy the wicked in any part of the world even if they appear to be prospering.
Because their days are numbered.
God has His measure of tolerance for them.
For us, what is more important is that we let the word of God speak to us this morning.
If there is any sin that we need to repent of, let us quickly seek the Lord.
Do not end up like the people of Ephraim.
God says in Hosea 4:17 says Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone
This is one of the saddest statements you can find in the Scriptures.
The people of Ephraim had become so attached to their idols that God finally says, “Let them alone.”
This is the same counsel Jesus gave in Matthew 15:14 concerning the Jewish leaders, who consistently rejected God’s revelation to them:
Don’t follow the example of those who are so glued to their personal idols and selfish ambitions that they reject the authority of Christ upon their lives.
God is here informing Hosea that, as a prophet, he will no longer be given any message for the people of Ephraim.
God will not be speaking to them anymore.
They have persisted in rebellion and idolatry so long that God determines to leave them to their misery.
What a terrifying reality this is!
To be so hardened in sin that God no longer even speaks to you!
Let us never let that happen to ourselves.
Do not presume upon God’s mercy and put off repentance – the Holy Ghost Himself says, “Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7-8).
Let us return to Him.
Let us find peace once again.
Let us find the presence of God once more.
For God says, “return to Me and I will return to you”.