Hitherto we have only seen visions of peace in the Book of Zechariah, and all the words we have heard have been good and comfortable words. But the pillar of cloud and fire has a black and dark side toward the enemies of God, as well as a bright and pleasant side toward the children of God; and it is the same way with Zechariah’s visions. Jehovah’s prophets are not only His ambassadors to speak peace to the sons and daughters of peace, but they are also heralds to proclaim war against those who delight in war and persist in rebellion.
In this chapter, we have two visions by which “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” He will do great and kind things for His people, which they shall rejoice in; but let sinners be afraid! In the days of Zechariah, while God was showing kindness to the nation as a whole and loading it with His blessings, those persons who were wicked and profane would lie under the curse – which the prophet sees in a flying scroll (verses 1-4). And if the nation hereafter became degenerate, and wickedness prevailed among them; then it would be carried off and hurried away with swift destruction, under the pressing weight of Divine wrath – which is represented by a weight of lead upon the mouth of a vessel the size of an ephah (a unit of measurement among the Jews), which was carried off to a far-away land (verses 5-11).
The prophet beheld, in a vision, a huge sheet of scroll or animal-skin, measuring 30 feet (9.1 m) by 15 feet (4.6 m). It was prepared for writing, and it was slowly floating in mid-heaven. On each side, it was covered by the solemn curses of the Law of God, particularly against the sins of thievery and false swearing. It is clear that the newly re-established community in Jerusalem was especially cursed by these twin sins. People were fraudulent and dishonest. They got the better of their neighbors if they had the chance; and then, with unblushing impudence, they lied to conceal their frauds. These are sins that are sadly found among every mercantile community; they are as prevalent in London, New York, Bombay, and Melbourne as they ever were in the newly-restored Jerusalem. Over the liars and robbers in this world’s great commercial centers and emporiums of trade, that flying roll filled with God’s curse still hovers today.
The effect of this curse is told in graphic symbolism. It seemed, after a time, to settle down upon certain houses. They may have been respectable houses, which were often lit up with the glowing lamps of festivities; they may have been the houses of people who were held in reverent reputation. But by the settling down of that scroll of curses upon the house, the head of household and all therein were shown to be either a thief or a liar, and the whole fabric of the house began to rot.
Again, the prophet’s eyes were directed by his guide toward mid-heaven, and then he saw an even more graphic symbol. He saw an ephah – that is, a vessel that was the size and capacity to hold an ephah, a measurement roughly equivalent to a bushel, or seven or eight gallons (28.4 liters). The prophet asked, “What is it?” And the answer was, “This is an ephah that goeth forth… This is their resemblance through all the earth.” This was as much as to say that in those days, the Jews were known throughout the world as traders, who were constantly handing the measure called an ephah. Presently the cover of this ephah-sized vessel was lifted off, and a woman was seen sitting in the midst of it. “This,” said Zechariah’s attendant, “is wickedness.” And then he cast the woman down into the midst of the ephah, and threw a weight of lead upon its opening. This represented the fact that the commercial life of these Jewish traders was deeply saturated with wicked practices; and they wished to place a leaden weight upon the top of the vessel containing their wickedness, so to speak, so that they might hide it from the eyes of their nearest and dearest relations, and even from the face of God Himself. However, it is at this juncture that an entirely new turn is given to this vision. “Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold, there came forth two women, and the wind was in their wings; now they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven” (verse 9). These winged women executed the Lord’s righteous purposes in removing wickedness. The prophet asked, “Whither do these bear the ephah?” And the reply was that they went “to build it an house in the land of Shinar” – that is, Babylon – “and when it is prepared, she shall be set there in her own place.” Babylon was far away from Jerusalem, and it was the seat of apostasy from God and of demon-worship. It was fitting, then, that wickedness should be carried away to that place; and then how great the deliverance would be for the Lord’s chosen land!
What great comfort is here for the child of God! Wickedness may be strongly entrenched, but it shall be removed when God arises on behalf of His people. Do you sigh and cry against it? Do you desire that some terrible form of it, which has cursed your life for a long time, should be eliminated? Be encouraged, then, by this vision! Lift up your eyes and see the swift stork-like wings, with the favoring breeze bearing them forward, as they speed to perform God’s command. The Lord will certainly free and deliver you! If we abide in Christ and cling to Him with all our hearts, we shall enjoy glorious liberty and freedom from the spirit of fear and sin and bondage!
Lord, we beseech You for grace to abide in our dear Savior, so that we may see wickedness carried away out of the practical experience of our lives. Deliver us from the power of our besetting sins, through the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit! Amen.
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