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Zechariah 5: The woman in the basket and the flying scroll

It is almost impossible to imagine how difficult it must have been for those Jews when they returned from the Babilonian exile and saw their dreams and hope simply disintegrate. Imagine how hopeless they must have felt.

It is now approximately 18 years later and the temple has not even been restored yet. The functioning of the temple was therefore non existent. They were in serious need of encouragement and spiritual revival.

Sometime during February 520 BC (519 BC according to the Jewish calendar), the Lord gave Zechariah 8 visions during one night. The purpose was to give an important message from the living God to those despondent people.

We’ve already looked at 5 of the visions. Now we are at the 6th and 7th visions. The “flying scroll” and the “woman in the basket”.

Zechariah’s 6th vision concerns a flying scroll. And that shows how the Lord – who loves and restores His people – is at the same time also holy and righteous, and shall and must punish sin. That is the essential character of the true God.

The 6th and 7th visions are warnings, but at the same time an encouragement to show that God himself will deal with the problem of sin – through judgment and by so doing removing sin.

Verse 2 > The flying scroll is a very large open scroll for everyone to read what is written on it. No one will be able to say that they did not see and read it. And as the context shows, the content is God’s Law and the accompanying curses for disobedience that rest upon all transgressors of the Law. And because it is so large, it shows that it is suitable to cover the whole country, for all to see how every sin will be dealt with.

The scroll is therefore a symbolic presentation of God’s Law (10 Commandments) that was disregarded not only by Israel, but all people, and is therefore calling for God’s righteous judgment and punishment. Every person who disobeys the Law, has a curse resting upon him (Gal 3:10). Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).

The size of the scroll was the exact size of the Holy of Holies in the temple. That symbolizes the divine standard according to which man will be judged.

Verse 3 > The Curses for Disobedience are documented in Deut 28: 15-68. And in keeping with Haggai 1:1-11 (Haggai was Zechariah’s contemporary and colleague) the Holy Spirit emphasizes through Zechariah that – under the Old/Sinai Covenant – under which the Curses for Disobedience of Deut 28 fall – the obedience of God’s nation will result in certain material blessings, while disobedience will result in God’s curse – which was very often visible in physical hardship. The principle is timeless though, namely that whoever lives within the Lord’s will and truth, will experience the blessing that comes with it. And whoever disregards His will and truth, will bear the consequences.

Although only 2 transgressions are mentioned here, namely theft and lies (false witness), the Curses of Disobedience are not aimed at these only, but they are two sins (breaking of the 3rd and 8th commandments) that represent all the sins of the whole country. They indicate the breaking of all the commandments, the moral law, which is the revelation of God’s own character. James 2:10 is clear: The Law is like a chain with links. Break one, and the chain is broken.

These Curses of Disobedience are a serious matter. Verse 4 is actually a verse that makes one tremble. He speaks of destruction. Consuming. The Word of God shall ACCOMPLISH the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55:11).

Verse 4 shows that it is impossible to escape God’s judgment. It penetrates everywhere. Every household. Those who take a stand on the wrong side of God’s holy will, shall bear the consequences. Under the Old Covenant your physical house, the structure and even the entire contents, would have been destroyed. We read something of that in Ezra 6:11. Under the New Covenant we read it, and it shows us the certainty of God’s judgment (Rom 2:4; 1 Thess 5:1-3; Heb 2:3).

In a nutshell: The purpose and message of this vision of the flying scroll was to show the Jews who had returned from exile and who had to restore the city and the temple, what sin is and how serious it is. Without this awareness they would never place their hope and trust upon the wonderful promises of the coming Messiah – which the other visions proclaim so clearly – among others the vision of the woman in a basket which followed. The thorough awareness of sin and blame and the awareness of the reality of how serious it is in the holy eyes of God, had to bring them to conviction and faith in the promise of the coming Saviour.

It is like taking the symptoms of your illness seriously and going to the doctor for healing.

What it means FOR US (within the New Covenant) today: Although we are not in the same situation as the Jews at that time, the principle of what the vision is saying is the same within the New Covenant and therefore for us today in 2020.

We should understand that sin is serious. That it is a transgression of the Law. That we sin against the holy God and that it must and shall be punished with eternal death. It should disturb and upset us so that we would long for healing with all our heart. The Law – and the realization of how sinful I am in light of the “scroll”, the Law – is my guardian back to CHRIST (Gal 3:24). It makes me rush to the doctor.

One can look at this vision and wonder why the punishment for the breaking of God’s law and will is so extreme. Is it not a little excessive? No, it is not, not when you understand who God is. It is concerned with the One against Whom we transgress. His worth is what determines the degree and type of punishment.

If one should for example, cut a worm in two, very few people will lift an eyebrow. Maybe an objection or two. Because a worm has very little value in our eyes. Should you however cut a mouse in two, you would hear more objections. If you cut a cat or a dog in two, even more objections. If you should cut a HUMAN in two, it is a culpable crime, it is murder, it will receive serious punishment.

Because sin is disdain for the will and law of the holy infinite God, eternal death is the only suitable punishment.

No one therefore has a chance of survival, because EVERYONE (Rom 3:23) is in the same situation. EVERYONE has sinned and has lost the glory of God.

How very grateful we should be for the next vision, which tells us what God has done with sin.

Verses 5-11 > The woman in the basket: THE 7th VISION
This vision shows how the sovereign God single-handedly destroyed and removed the sins of the nation Israel. His holiness can and shall not endure/tolerate sin in and by His people.

This measuring basket was most probably not large enough to contain a grown person. But we must remember that these are prophetic apocalyptic visions, where exact realism does not matter. The message is what is important, namely that the sins of the people were going to be removed once and for all.

The basket had a cover of lead which emphasised how effective the contents of the basket was contained. The woman cannot get out. Her fate is sealed.

In the vision sin is personified as a person. It is shown as a person, a woman. Why a woman we do not know exactly. Probably because Israel’s idolatry was often spoken of by the prophets as prostitution (Ezek 16:25 and Hos 2:2). It is also by a woman that the original Fall took place (1 Tim 2). We also read something about this in Revelation 17 where Babylon is pictured as a woman and is personified as the seduction of the world.

We do not have to try to find any spiritual meaning in the two women who flew with wings – like those of a stork – to take the basket away. Removed never to be seen again. Remember: this is a vision in code language. Women do not normally fly with wings like that of a stork. It is merely ingredients of the vision to bring across a message, namely that sin will be taken away and that it is an act of God who does it. The two women have clearly been sent by God.

Verse 11 > SHINAR was simply a much older name for Babylonia and is perhaps used here to recall that tower of Babylon (Gen 11:2) – which was a symbol of the rebellious sinner’s dreadful revolt against God. Not Jerusalem, but Shinar is the obvious place to take the sins to, because Jerusalem was the symbol of God’s dwelling place with Israel – the temple and the Holy of Holies in the temple.

The woman in the basket is then sealed in a kind of sarcophagus, a grave, a pyramid from which never, ever to escape again.

Everything code language of course. There was never a woman in a basket who was sealed away somewhere in the Middle East. But the message, that is what is important.

In conjunction with the previous vision of the scroll, this vision comes with the devastatingly good news. God will single-handedly deal with sin. Without assistance from man. Without the cooperation of man. HE will destroy the system of sin.

One can sense that this woman-in-the-basket vision has a connection with the 4th vision where God removed Joshua’s filthy garments and put a new robe on him. That vision shows how one-sided radical grace works. God simply removes a person’s sins and clothes him in new robes of righteousness.

The woman-in-the-basket vision shows us where God went with the filthy garments. What became of it.

The flying scroll vision fills me with such consciousness of sin and guilt, and lets me flee to the grace of God, because His grace in Jesus Christ removes filthy garments and puts on a new robe. But, can it perhaps return again? What if I get to the Throne of God at the Last Day and here are the filthy garments again! CAN it happen?

The woman-in-the-basket shows us how God threw the filthy garments in the washing basket – sealed with a cover of lead. Zechariah sees how the sin is crouching in the basket like a prostitute. If someone lifts the lid to take a peep, she is ready to jump out. But the angel of the Lord pushed her back and pushed the lead cover down over its mouth. God does not want to know anything more of the sin. He is done with it – once and for all. Sealed – with lead – as a corpse of someone who died of a contagious decease. YOUR sin is also in there. The entire cursed sin-system that controlled your life from A-Z. Verse 6 > The basket contains the iniquity of all the people throughout the land. That means God’s people. Seen in broader terms it means the sins of all the people who would ever come to Christ throughout the ages.

And then God also removes the basket. He does not want to see it again. It must not exist ever again. He seals it in a sarcophagus.

THAT is the grace of God! GOD who truly saves!

With this woman-in-the-basket vision the Holy Spirit speaks so clearly of the cross of Calvary. More than 500 years ahead. God’s once-only, completed act of salvation took place THERE. When He single-handedly in one day removed for ever and ever, the sin of everyone in the whole world who would ever come to faith. Had it sealed away. Left it behind in the stuffy grave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You CAN believe it! You simply MUST believe it. This too-good-to-be-true Gospel-message! Place your TRUST in it! Once and for ever.

Translated by Marthie Wilson

Category Zechariah

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