Just a Little Juxtaposition Justifies Judah and Jerusalem

Zechariah 5

Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, there was a flying scroll. And he said to me, “What do you see?” And 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 is going forth over the face of the whole land; surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side. “I will make it go forth,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name; and it will spend the night within that house and consume it with its timber and stones.” Then the angel who was speaking with me went out, and said to me, “Lift up now your eyes, and see what this is, going forth.” And I said, “What is it?” And he said, “This is the ephah going forth.” Again he said, “This is their appearance in all the land (and behold, a lead cover was lifted up); and this is a woman sitting inside the ephah.” Then he said, “This is Wickedness!” And he threw her down into the middle of the ephah and cast the lead weight on its opening. Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and there two women were coming out with the wind in their wings; and they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heavens. And I said to the angel who was speaking with me, “Where are they taking the ephah?” Then he said to me, “To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar; and when it is prepared, she will be set there on her own pedestal.”

More understandable imagery but only to the astute observer. Most of us neither claim to be nor want to be an astute observer. We’d rather pay someone else to tell us what the imagery means. We also expect our pastors to explain the Bible to us, forgetting that at a chapter a week, it would take a pastor 23 years to explain, and it would be his angle on the Bible– taught to him by our pastor factories–because, as I have said, unless you are learning for yourself you only know what you have been taught. However there are very good pastors in the world but even the best ones can’t teach everything to anyone. You can and should study the Bible and the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics can help. We keep the Bible caged by our traditions, presuppositions, presumptions and preconceived notions. To unlock the CAGED Scripture, we must consider the context, aspirations of author, genre, examples and divide rightly the word of truth. Today’s text is another example of how we need to let the Bible interpret the Bible. Today’s text is also an excellent example of not jumping to conclusions. Let’s look at the imagery.

“Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, there was a flying scroll. And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ And 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 is going forth over the face of the whole land; surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side. “I will make it go forth,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name; and it will spend the night within that house and consume it with its timber and stones.”'”

We don’t need to wonder how the scroll flew, such as, did it have wings or was it more like a missile or projectile? The imagery of the flying scroll is not how it flew but that it flew. Often times we get bogged down by details that are not given which leads us down a rabbit hole in which there is nothing but darkness. The imagery is of a scroll flying in the air. The explanation is that the scroll represents a curse on those who steal and those who lie, invoking the name of the Lord–thiefs and false prophets. With a fairly simple image and a fairly simple explanation, we wonder why the Lord would give the vision at all. Why not simply tell Zechariah that a curse is coming to the false prophets and thiefs?

Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, at least those  who have taken the time to examine Zechariah, claim that this scroll, flying in mid-air, represents the ten commandments. In a way I agree with them but at the same time, I couldn’t disagree more. The reason is that they see all ten of the commandments rolled up, or unfurled, in this flying scroll. Nevertheless, we consider the context and sublime string and remember that Moses could carry the ten commandments and they were written in stone, not on a scroll. Consider the context–the scroll was flying, was rather large, written on the front and the back, with only two “Laws.” We’ll come back to this.  First–flying. It appears that flying is synonymous with going forth from the Lord. Let’s continue and see if that jives with the genre. Let’s look at a juxtaposition between the Law and the scroll.

“I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.” This scroll was not only the size of Solomon’s portico, but was written on the front and back. Even if God used a large font, that is a lot of writings. I think it’s clear, based upon the context, that the proclamation and curse was much longer than the ten commandments, of which only contain 179 words in English but in the original Hebrew, the ten commandments were actually called “the ten words.” The ten commandments fit on two tablets but Zechariah sees two curses, not commandments, on a scroll the size of two school buses. Therefore we juxtapose the stone tablets, carried by one man, written on the front, to a flying scroll, written on both sides and over 100 times the size, but with 1/5th of the commandments. And their not actually commandments at all but curses. While we do this, we remember the continuing context and the sublime string.

The flying scroll, juxtaposed to the stone tablets, is bigger, larger, flying, written on the front and the back, not made of stone and is associated with the number two and not the number ten, amongst many other contrasting elements. We remember reading that “by two or three witnesses shall everything be confirmed” in the Law and within the context of “church” discipline in Matthew 18. We see the two leaders of Judah in Zechariah, Joshua and Zerubbabel. We see the two olive trees in Zechariah. And now we are also seeing two curses, not commandments, which given the imagery and the number “two,” leap of the page as judgement. Then and only then can the astute observer understand the relationship between the stone commands and the scroll judgement for breaking the stone commands. Yet God gave this imagery when he didn’t have to give it–deeper one must dive into the discourse, remembering that the flying scroll is a curse not a command. It’s a decree not a set of rules and the language used speaks volumes. The two curses are against robbery and swearing falsely in the name of the Lord.

In Malachi, the final prophet in the Old Testament, right after Zechariah, we read; “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ ‘You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, “How have we defiled You?” In that you say, “The table of the LORD is to be despised.” But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘nor will I accept an offering from you. For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘But you are profaning it, in that you say, “The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.” You also say, “My, how tiresome it is!” And you disdainfully sniff at it,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and you bring what was taken by robbery, and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?’ says the LORD. ‘But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock, and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and My name is feared among the nations.'”

The Lord continues rebuking  the priests; “If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name, then I will send the curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart. Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread vomit on your faces, the vomit of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it. Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi, My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me, and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity.”

The Lord also said to the priests in Malachi, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes, And all the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land.”

And in the middle of all of this we read; “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD, as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me.”

As we continue to let the Bible interpret the Bible, notice; “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. [Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.] Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.’ You fools and blind men; which is more important, the gold, or the temple that sanctified the gold? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering upon it, he is obligated.’ You blind men, which is more important, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering? Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. And he who swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.”

Oh the sublime string which has been cut into tiny pieces and ripped out of context by the mega-church pastors and prophecy pundits. Remember in the midst of Malachi we read; “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.” Malachi expounds on this messenger. “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”

As Jesus called the Pharisees a brood of vipers, John the Baptist, the messenger, came before Jesus, saying, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father;’ for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

That analogy could be related to another analogy of a woman in an ephah, with a lead weight being cast out. But I am getting way ahead of myself. Notice the curse about being cut down and thrown into the fire. Talk about a curse! Concerning John and Malachi,  Jesus said to his disciples, “‘Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you, that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.”

Why do we look for future fulfillment when the Bible continually confirms fulfillment in its pages? Why do we assume that an Israel two thousand years removed from the Pharisees will endure a tremendous tribulation promised to that generation? Notice again the flying scroll curse promised in Zechariah and Malachi, reiterated to the Pharisees by the Messiah. “Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you,

all these things

shall come

upon this generation.”

I should not have to strenuously emphasize this statement but the prophecy pundits proclaim that those things happen in our generation, after the church is removed of course. They will often site Matthew 24 as a proof text of a future fulfillment of a terrible tribulation. But Matthew 24 proves that it will happen to their generation. The book of Acts fulfilled the first part of what we have recently read. “I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” This is a prophetic summary of the book of Acts. And Jesus says the same thing to the disciples in Matthew 24 after they ask Jesus about the temple toppling and the ultimate fulfillment of the curse.

“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.” It is absolutely apex to understand the author’s aspirations to his audience. The audience is the disciples–they are the “you.” Therefore the author’s aspirations to his audience are to warn them, encourage them and  tell them the answer to their question,  truthfully. The curse of the flying scroll happens during their generation. Let’s look again at the literary language used in Zechariah.

“‘I will make it go forth,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name; and it will spend the night within that house and consume it with its timber and stones.'” Fast forward to Malachi– “‘Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘But who can endure the day of His coming?'” Fast forward to Matthew– “And Jesus entered the temple and cast out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, ‘It is written, “MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”‘” And then Jesus returned in the morning and cursed the fig tree. Fast forward a little bit more– “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” Fast forward just a tiny bit more– “And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He answered and said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.'”

Once more, let’s rewind and look at the imagery in Zechariah. “‘I will make it go forth’ [the curse of  the flying scroll], declares the LORD of hosts, ‘and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name; and it will spend the night within that house and consume it with its timber and stones.'” When Jesus came to his temple, as promised, he fulfilled a plethora of prophecies and made prophetic proclamations of his own (actually, all true prophecy is from Jesus).

Although it is ironic to think that Jesus had Joshua and Zerubbabel rebuild the temple so that Jesus can come to it to find robbery and false swearing in order that he can destroy the temple, it’s the truth. The question is why? The answer is alluded to in the continuing context of Zechariah. Nevertheless, the imagery is only understood by the astute observer. But for the common christian the answer is sublimely simple. All one has to do is read the book of Hebrews and see that every single thing written in the Old Testament, in some form or fashion, points to Jesus and his coming and the need for his coming to do away with the old Covenant and establish a new Covenant. For time’s sake we will look at a small portion.

“Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, ‘SEE,’ He says, ‘THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.’ But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.”

The temple and the sacrifice didn’t save anyone. Only the true temple of Jesus Christ can save. The temple has become obsolete because something greater than the temple has come–Jesus. Jesus doesn’t have to return halfway to earth to rapture his church so that he can once again deal with Israel. He sits on his throne in heaven and earth is the footstool of his feet. The imagery is that he reigns on earth from heaven over all Israel, whom God can raise up from all nations. Remember the picture the olive tree in Romans and how Paul repeatedly wrote that God made the two groups into one. Jesus will physically return to earth but not to take away the church but to live with his people forever, made up of Jewish people and all the nations.

Nevertheless, judgement came to apostate Israel, while the blessing of fleeing from Jerusalem was given to faithful Israel, made up first of Jewish people, then the Samaritans and then the nations who had come to Jerusalem, exactly as the prophets foretold. God dealt with faithless Israel over and over throughout history but the culmination came in the first century. Jacob’s trouble has happened and the temple toppled exactly as Christ had promised to their generation, in their generation.

We read in Zechariah; “Then the angel who was speaking with me went out, and said to me, ‘Lift up now your eyes, and see what this is, going forth.’ And I said, ‘What is it?’ And he said, ‘This is the ephah going forth.’ Again he said, “This is their appearance in all the land (and behold, a lead cover was lifted up); and this is a woman sitting inside the ephah.’ Then he said, ‘This is Wickedness!’ And he threw her down into the middle of the ephah and cast the lead weight on its opening. Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and there two women were coming out with the wind in their wings; and they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heavens. And I said to the angel who was speaking with me, ‘Where are they taking the ephah?’ Then he said to me, ‘To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar; and when it is prepared, she will be set there on her own pedestal.'”

Simply for time’s sake we won’t delve deeply into the imagery here but hit the highlights because once one understands a few items and considers the continuing context of the curse of the flying scroll, the imagery, once again, leaps off the page. Shinar was the land to the north, where the tower of Babel was built. A lead cover is heavy and being carried away represents being carried away. The ephah was an amount, a measurement of an offering. Remember that they were robbing the Lord with their offerings and remember that Jesus said,  “Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?” String it all together with the sublime string, rather than rip verses out of context and understand the parable of the vineyard and the vine-grower. The kingdom was taken from faithless Israel and given to faithful Israel, made up of the “Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Apostate Israel is the woman expelled back to Babylon, or Shinar, or Babel or Mesopotamia, the land from which they were called. Apostate Israel broke the covenant and divorced the Lord, not the other way around. When the time was right, God granted them their divorce, in 70 AD. Their generation had filled up the measure of the sins of their fathers. And yet, the Jewish people who remained faithful, were true Israel and they eventually understood and went to the gentiles.

 

 

 

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