1When I looked the next time, I saw a flying scroll, 2and the angel asked, “What do you see?”
“A flying scroll,” I answered. “About nine meters long and four and a half meters wide.”
3Then he told me:
This scroll puts a curse on everyone in the land who steals or tells lies. The writing on one side tells about the destruction of those who steal, while the writing on the other side tells about the destruction of those who lie.
4The Lord All-Powerful has said, “I am sending this scroll into the house of everyone who is a robber or tells lies in my name, and it will remain there until every piece of wood and stone in that house crumbles.”
5Now the angel who was there to explain the visions came over and said, “Look up and tell me what you see coming.”
6“I don't know what it is,” was my reply.
“It's a big basket,” he said. “And it shows what everyone in the land has in mind.”
7The lead cover of the basket was opened, and in the basket was a woman. 8“This woman represents evil,” the angel explained. Then he threw her back into the basket and slammed the heavy cover down tight.
9Right after this I saw two women coming through the sky with wings outstretched like a stork in the wind. Suddenly they lifted the basket into the air, 10and I asked the angel, “Where are they taking the basket?”
11“To Babylonia,” he answered, “where they will build a house for the basket and set it down inside.”
Having addressed some of the external obstacles to the restoration of the community’s religious life, Zechariah now receives a vision that is disturbing because of how personal it is. There is some comfort in blaming factors beyond our control when things are not going in a positive direction. But then, when the spotlight gets focussed on us, we stand the risk of being exposed for our hypocrisy and secret complicity. And yet, if the community is going to have integrity, the sin in its midst must be dealt with.
The sixth vision features a billboard-sized notice declaring penalties for those who violate God’s laws. It flies, carpet-like, through the houses of the land, identifying individuals who either sin against God by swearing falsely on His name, or sin against their neighbour by stealing. Communities fall apart when promises can’t be trusted and belongings must always be locked up. If the theft and the broken promises involve pledges made to help with the rebuilding of the Temple, then it is not just the House of God that suffers the consequences of their corruption. Sins lodge with the sinner and will eventually bring destruction in the home (5:4).
The seventh vision involves a measuring basket covered with a heavy lid and containing a curious figure: a woman called “wickedness.” The figure could have been an idol, such as the Mesopotamian deity, Ishtar, the goddess of love, sex and fertility. If so, this vision indicates that there are those who returned from exile bearing the artefacts of Babylonian religion. Perhaps they thought that they could worship other gods while being part of the community of the all-powerful Lord. But here there is no remedy but to remove the sin and its temptation altogether. Those who think that they can mix their devotion to God with attachment to the world would be wise to heed the words of Paul: “My friends, you must keep away from idols” (1 Corinthians 10:14).
We are plagued, O Lord, by the “sin that just won’t let go” (Hebrews 12:1). Show us your strength in breaking sin’s grip on our lives and by casting it away through the power of Christ’s forgiveness. Amen.