Zechariah is remindful of the donkey, bringing to mind his famous prophecy of the Lord coming in peace, riding on a donkey.
Vision 1 – God’s pity for God’s people | Zechariah 1:7‑17
Vision 2 – God’s protection of God’s people | Zechariah 1:18‑21
Vision 3 – God’s purpose for God’s people | Zechariah 2:1-13
Vision 4 – God’s purification of God’s people | Zechariah 3:1-10
Vision 5 – God’s empowering of God’s people | Zechariah 4:1-14
Vision 6 – God’s perfecting of God’s people | Zechariah 5:1-4
Vision 7 – God’s purging of God’s people | Zechariah 5:5-11
Vision 8 – God’s protecting of God’s people | Zechariah 6:1-8
An angelic guide helped Zechariah understand what God was showing him, throughout the night.
Vision 6, A Flying Scroll
Remember that God had given Zechariah eight visions in the course of a single night.
So far, you and I have read through five of those visions together, giving messages of reassurance and revealing God’s nature of mercy. The last three visions have a darker side, for they display God’s judgement against all that is wrong, corrupted, and evil—God’s disposition against the seriousness of sin.
Again I [Zechariah] looked up and saw a flying scroll.
And he [the angel] said to me, “What do you see?”
I answered, “I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits.”
Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land; for everyone who steals shall be cut off according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears falsely shall be cut off according to the writing on the other side.”
“I have sent it out,” says the Lord of hosts, “and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name; and it shall abide in that house and consume it, both timber and stones.”Zechariah 5:1-4 (NRSV)
What Does it Mean?
Imagine this scroll unfurled: it was thirty feet by fifteen feet—that is massive! It so happened this was also the measurement of the outer court of the original temple, where the law was usually read aloud to the people.
As Zechariah watched, the scroll went out over the whole earth, and everyone was literally under God’s law, under God’s judgement against sin.
- The scroll represented God’s commandments, law, and values. Its dimensions indicated the sacredness of God’s law.
- The two sides indicated both aspects of God’s commandments—that governing people’s relationship with God, and that governing people’s relationships with each other.
- The unfurled flight portrayed its applicability to the whole world.
- The curse God’s judgment against sin had begun in the Garden of Eden, at the transgression of the first human beings.
Deuteronomy, The Summary of the Torah
Being familiar with Scripture, Zechariah and the people of his day knew the ten commandments could be found in the Book of the Law, the books of Moses, the Pentateuch.
In Zechariah’s vision, there was writing on both sides of the scroll, one side dealing with sin of people against people, and the other side dealing with sin of people against God—just as were the ten commandments, written on two tablets of stone.
|The Ten Commandments||The Flying Scroll|
|Two stone tablets.||Two sides of writing.|
|The first four commandments have to do with a person’s relationship with God.||Written on one side of the scroll was the breaking of the third commandment: misusing God’s name, which symbolized breaking all of the laws about God, not honoring God, not taking God seriously, not loving God nor living by God’s word.|
|The last six commandments have to do with a person’s relationships with other people.||The other side of the scroll condemned stealing, breaking the eighth commandment. The exiles who had returned to Judah were doing some very wrong things – the poor could not pay their taxes, so the rich were taking advantage of the situation to steal from the poor. Stealing represented the breaking of all the commandments concerning God’s word about how to treat each other.|
The very next chapter spoke of loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and teaching their children and grandchildren to love God and know God’s word.
But to not be loving with family, neighbors, friends—even foreigners sojourning in the land—is to not love the Lord. As God had instructed through Moses,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.Leviticus 19:18 (NRSV)
Jesus would later combine these two commandments as the sum of God’s Law.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
[Jesus] said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.
And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”Matthew 22:36-40
The reason God’s people were to keep the law was to be holy, for God is holy.
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.Deuteronomy 7:6 (NRSV)
Centuries later, the Apostle Peter would write,
Do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”1 Peter 1:14-16 (NRSV)
And there was the Curse of the Law: even God’s own people would surely perish if they were to leave God to follow and serve other gods.
Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.
If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
Like the nations that the Lord is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.Deuteronomy 8:17-20 (NRSV)
The penalty for breaking any of God’s laws was utter destruction for the house and the person living in it, a vivid depiction to the people to whom Zechariah would deliver this oracle. They had already faced the devastation of their homes and possessions. In order to rebuild, they had had to clear away all the rubble and ruination left by the sacking of Jerusalem.
Yet, this devastation God spoke of was as much, if not more so a spiritual portrayal of the sure and inexorable corruption of that person’s soul and spirit.
This is what God seeks to rescue each of us from, the inescapable result of harboring sin.
One is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then,
—when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin,
—and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved.James 1:15-16 (NRSV)
[Image created with scroll by Clive Varley, https://www.flickr.com/photos/boyfrom_bare/40590060611, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) AND earth by Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay]