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Major Messages from the Minor Prophets: Visions of Future Glory—Zechariah

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Zechariah’s last three visions.

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Text: Zechariah 5:1-6:15
Theme: Zechariah’s last three vision
Date: 03/11/2017 File Name: MinorProphets16e.wpd ID Number: 244
The prophet Zechariah was active towards the end of the 6th century BC, prophesying in Jerusalem after the return from the Babylonian Exile. He was a Levite born in Babylon, and he was both a prophet and a priest. His name means, Yahweh remembers. He was a contemporary of Haggai the prophet, Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest. As a young man, he returned to Jerusalem from Babylon with the first returnees, a smallish contingent of 50,000 souls. As a young man, Zechariah is given a series of visions all in one night. Come the morning, he must have been both exhilarated and exhausted.
In the opening verses, God confirmed that He was very angry with the forefathers of Israel who did not hearken to the words of the prophets, who were sent to call them to repentance. However, even though God used Gentile nations to come up against Israel in judgment, He was even angrier with those Gentile nations because they went too far. At this point, Zechariah received eight prophetic visions for Israel, which all follow the same pattern, i.e.,
• introductory words
• a description of the things seen
• a question, or series of questions, by Zechariah to the angel for the meaning
• the explanation by the angel
The first five visions were designed to bring comfort to God’s people. The last three visions constitute a stern warning that the Holy One of Israel cannot tolerate evil in any form.

I. THE CURSE OF SIN: THE FLYING SCROLL (5:1-4)

“I looked again—and there before me was a flying scroll! 2 He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll, thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide.” 3 And he said to me, “This is the curse that is going out over the whole land; for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished, and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished. 4 The LORD Almighty declares, ‘I will send it out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. It will remain in his house and destroy it, both its timbers and its stones.’ ” (Zechariah 5:1–4, NIV84)
1. this is the sixth of the prophet’s eight visions

A. THE VISION

1. the word translated scroll literally means a role
a. the ancient world did not have books with separate pages as we know them
1) individual sheets of papyrus or parchment were attached to one another in long rolls with writing only on one side, and then wound on two spools to make a scroll
2) as a scroll is read it is unrolled from one side to the other
3) hand-written Torah Scrolls are still read in Jewish synagogues today
2. in his vision the scroll is flying, and as you can tell from its dimensions, is huge
a. the scroll is representative of the Word of God to His people, and thus scrolls containing the Jewish Scriptures were revered
1) the standard height of a Torah scroll is about 18 inches, and 148 feet in length
2) parchment used for the writing must be made from the skin of a kosher animal
3) the lettering of Torah scrolls — even modern ones — are hand-lettered with a turkey-quill pen, and a separate pen is used to write the name of God
a) no instrument containing iron or steel may be used in the creation of a Torah scroll, because these metals are used to create instruments of war
b) a full-sized Synagogue Torah Scroll can cost between $20-60,000, (depending on the quality)
4) it takes about 18 months to hand-letter a Jewish Torah scroll
a) even a single missing or misshapen letter, should one be discovered after the scroll is completed, invalidates the entire scroll
3. the dimensions of the scroll are the same as the dimensions as the Holy Place in the Tabernacle
a. while the Angel does not give any significance for these dimensions, most biblical scholars see it as the Old Testament version of 1 Peter 4:17 — that judgment must begin at the “house of God”
4. the scroll is also unrolled and written on both sides so that its contents can be clearly read

B. THE MEANING OF THE VISION

1. the interpreting angel indicated that the scroll symbolized the curse of God against sinners in Israel
a. if the remnant of Jews who have returned to Judea have any wonder why God would have allowed them to be exiled from their land for 70 years here is the answer
b. God is keeping His Covenant promises
2. the law of Moses taught that those who kept the law would prosper; those who broke it would meet with disaster
a. God’s word stipulates judgment and punishment for those who ignore what that word commands
b. Israel reaped what it sowed
3. sin always has devastating, and far reaching consequences for individuals, and nations
a. the curse that the scroll represents is going to affect the entire land
b. when Israel was on the brink of entering the Promised Land Moses offered this warning
“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— 27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.” (Deuteronomy 11:26–28, NIV84)
1) specific blessings for Israel’s faithfulness included national prosperity, fruitfulness, victory over enemies, rain, and a special relationship with God
2) specific curses for Israel’s unfaithfulness included economic austerity, lack of fruitfulness, disease, drought, plagues on crops, defeat by their enemies and exile
4. only two specific sins are mentioned in the passage —stealing on one side of the scroll, and swearing on the other, but they signify the breaking of the whole Law
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10, NIV84)
a. the result is that no sinner will escape the wrath of God’s curse poured out against sin

II. WICKEDNESS AND ITS REMOVAL: A WOMAN IN A BASKET (5:5-11)

“Then the angel who was speaking to me came forward and said to me, “Look up and see what this is that is appearing.” 6 I asked, “What is it?” He replied, “It is a measuring basket.” And he added, “This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land.” 7 Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman! 8 He said, “This is wickedness,” and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed the lead cover down over its mouth. 9 Then I looked up—and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings! They had wings like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between heaven and earth. 10 “Where are they taking the basket?” I asked the angel who was speaking to me. 11 He replied, “To the country of Babylonia to build a house for it. When it is ready, the basket will be set there in its place.” (Zechariah 5:5–11, NIV84)

A. THE VISION

1. in this vision, Zechariah saw an ephah, which is a measuring basket for grain and other household commodities
a. a measuring basket is an apt symbol of Israel’s sin because one of the repeated sins of Israel the many prophets railed against was unscrupulous people who used dishonest weights and measures to deceive unwary buyers
1) ancient Israel truly was a Caveat Emptor society
2. when the lid is lifted, inside the basket sat a woman, and the angel tells Zechariah that the woman personifies wickedness
a. the implication seems to be that when the lid is lifted to allow the Prophet to see what is inside that the woman attempts to emerge
1) the word pushed indicates a struggle of some kind
2) but the angel pushed the wickedness back into the basket and shut the lid (v. 8)
b. the basket’s cover is a lid of solid lead weighing approximately 70 pounds!
3. finally, the Prophet sees two more women each having wings like storks who whisk the basket away to Shinar which was the Old Testament name for Babylonia

B. THE MEANING OF THE VISION

1. the basket represented the iniquity of the people throughout the land (v. 6)
a. sin is pervasive; it affects everyone and everything
ILLUS. In Shakespear’s play MacBeth, Lady MacBeth goads her husband into committing suicide so that she can become Queen of Scotland. Suffering pangs of guilt Lady Macbeth begins sleepwalking through the castle, and imagines the blood of her husband on her hands at which point she exclaims, “Out, damned spot.” Sin is the “damned spot” that will not wash out of a sinner’s life.
b. the ephah was the largest dry measure that Israel had, and may well mean that Israel’s iniquity has reached its full measure
1) in essence, God is saying “I’ve had enough of your sin”
2. that it is a woman in the basket is not meant to suggest that women are wicked
a. there are two possibilities of why Zechariah is shown a women who represents evil
1) 1st, the Hebrew word for wickedness is in the feminine form so it is appropriate that the woman should be given this significance
2) 2nd, Israel’s primary sin — consistent throughout all the nation’s history — was the sin of idolatry which the prophets regularly compare to harlotry
a) this interpretation would fit the woman’s removal to Babylon (v. 11) since Judah’s idolatry was finally and forever purged by her 70-year captivity in Babylon
b. idolatry is a sin that, like the woman in the basket, struggles to reemerge, and wreck havoc in Israel once more, and so must be push back down
3. the basic point of this vision is that all evil will be eventually removed from Zion to a land which is under the curse of God
a. here is symbolically depicted that final discrimination between good and evil to which Jesus referred in his parables (Matt 13:36–43)
“Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:36–43, NIV84)

III. JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS: THE FOUR CHARIOTS (6:1-8)

“I looked up again—and there before me were four chariots coming out from between two mountains—mountains of bronze! 2 The first chariot had red horses, the second black, 3 the third white, and the fourth dappled—all of them powerful. 4 I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 The angel answered me, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world. 6 The one with the black horses is going toward the north country, the one with the white horses toward the west, and the one with the dappled horses toward the south.” 7 When the powerful horses went out, they were straining to go throughout the earth. And he said, “Go throughout the earth!” So they went throughout the earth. 8 Then he called to me, “Look, those going toward the north country have given my Spirit rest in the land of the north.” (Zechariah 6:1–8, NIV84)
1. the cycle of visions comes to a close with a symbolic portrayal of worldwide judgment

A. THE VISION

1. one last time Zechariah looks up, and this time the prophet observed war chariots with multicolored horses coming out from between two mountains—mountains of bronze
a. in the Hebrew the author uses a defiant article ... it’ the two mountains implying two well-known mountains
1) considering that Zechariah is in Jerusalem, the two mountains may well be Mt. Zion and the Mt. of Olives
2) the valley between these two mountains is elsewhere in Old Testament prophecy associated with judgment upon the nations
“I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.” (Joel 3:2, NIV84)
3) Jehoshaphat means the “valley where Yahweh judged”
b. the Valley of Jehoshaphat, a valley mentioned by Joel only, is the spot in which, after the return of Judah and Jerusalem from captivity, Jehovah would gather all the heathen, and would there sit to judge them for their misdeeds to Israel
“Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side.” (Joel 3:12, NIV84)
1) this is obviously something that has not yet happened
2. the chariots of war that Zechariah sees represents the four spirits of heaven who, before they’ve come to earth, were standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world
a. now this is were apocalyptic literature can be both interesting and confusing
1) are the four spirits of heaven represented as the chariots themselves, or are they the drivers of the chariots?
2) that these four winds are angels is indicated that they are standing in the presence of the Lord
b. the horses pulling the chariots are straining to go throughout the earth
1) the chariot with the black horses will head to the north
2) the chariot with the white horses go after them (only NIV says “goes west”)
a) it appears that two chariots head to the north
b) this was the region where Israel’s most terrifying enemies dwelled — Assyria and Babylon
3) the chariot with the dappled horses will head to the south
a) these horses moved toward Egypt, Israel’s traditional enemy
c. why is there no mention of the east and west in this vision?
1) to the west Israel bordered the Mediterranean Sea and in the east on the desert
2) from the viewpoint of people living in Judah, a worldwide judgment would of necessity have to depart north and south

B. THE MEANING OF THE VISION

1. a time is coming when God with pour out His wrath and judgment upon those nations who have oppressed His covenant people over the centuries
a. this includes a long list of nations where anti-Semitism has been pervasive
2. finally, the Prophet hears a voice saying, “Go! Go to and fro in the earth”
a. the judgment of the world was underway
3. the interpreting angel speaking directly for the Lord of all the earth cried out to Zechariah — he had good news to share with the prophet
a. he pointed to the black and white horse chariots and said: “Those have quieted my spirit in the land of the north”
1) to quiet the spirit means to cause anger or wrath to assuage
2) in vision one God’s anger was aroused by the unjudged atrocities committed by the nations of the world against Israel
3) here God proclaims victory over the powerful enemies of the north
4) if those enemies have fallen, by implication every foe has been vanquished

IV. APPLICATION OF ZECHARIAH’S LAST THREE VISIONS

1. virtually all prophetic visions serve a dual purpose for Israel
a. they speak to immediate circumstances, offering hope or giving warning to God’s Covenant people
b. but some prophetic visions look past the present and into the future
1) sometimes it is the “near future” as when Isaiah specifically prophesied about Cyrus who would allow the Jews of the Captivity to return home, and one hundred years later it happened
2) sometimes it is the “far future” and looks to the “end times” when Messiah would restore the fortunes of Israel and reign over God’s Kingdom
2. Zechariah’s eight visions — especially that last three visions — look to the “far future” — a future that yet remains future even for us
a. anyone who has read the Book of Zechariah and the Book of Revelation will see some reoccurring images
1) Four horses: a black horse, a red horse, a white horse (the fourth horse is dapple in Zechariah and pale in Revelation)
2) Four winds
3) Seven eyes
4) Two olive trees
5) Gold lampstands
ILLUS. One commentator writes: “Perhaps the God who revealed both messages intended for us to connect the dots — or maybe they’re just some really powerful images that are worth repeating.”
3. the last three visions teach us about
The Curse of Sin, it Wrecks Havoc in Our Personal Lives and in Societies
Wickedness Is Real, but in Christ God Justifies
Judgment Is Coming, and No Individual Nor Nation Should Presume That it Shall Escape the Judgement of God’s Wrath
There is a story that I think brings all of these points together. Twenty years ago Karla Faye Tucker was executed by the state of Texas. She and an accomplice had brutally murdered two people in a botched robbery. In September 1983, Tucker and her accomplice were indicted for murder and tried separately for the crimes. She was found guilty and sentenced to death. She was executed on February 3, 1998. She was reaping the wages for her incredibly sinful life. Sin had wrecked havoc in her home, and in her life.
Here’s the backstory. Karla grew up in a deeply troubled, and dysfunctional home. She began smoking marijuana at age seven. By age 12, she had turned to drugs and sex. She dropped out of school at age 14 and followed her mother Carolyn, a rock groupie, into prostitution and began traveling with various rock-n-roll bands. In her early twenties she began hanging out with bikers where she met Danny Garrett. After spending the weekend using drugs with Garrett and their friends, Tucker and Garrett went to rob a house. Things went wrong and they killed two people.
Tucker and Garrett were soon caught and arraigned. Soon after being imprisoned, Karla Faye took a Bible from the prison ministry program and read it in her cell. She had never attended Church and knew nothing about Christ or his Gospel. While reading the Bible, she came under conviction of sin, fell to her knees, and cried out to God for forgiveness. In the coming months and years her life was transformed. Everyone who met her knew that her conversion was genuine. She later recalled, "I didn't know what I was reading. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of my cell floor on my knees. I was just asking God to forgive me." Tucker became a Christian in October 1983. Like the women in the basket, Karla’s sin was carried far away, because God had justified her.
A month before her execution, she was interviewed on Larry King Live from death row. He asked if she remained upbeat know her execution was near. The simply said, “Yes.” King said, “You have to explain that to me a little more. It can’t just be God.”
Karla Faye said, “Yes, it can. It’s called the joy of the Lord ... I know what forgiveness is, even though I did something so horrible. I know that because God forgave me and I’ve accepted what Jesus did on the cross, that when I leave here, I am going to be with him.” A month later she was executed. In this world Karla received the judgment that comes when God’s laws are broken. But because of her faith in Christ, she has escape the judgement of God’s Wrath .
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