Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 23 2019 - Zechariah 5 – The flying scroll

If the vision given to Zechariah in yesterday's reading was complicated, the visions in today's reading are just plain weird – a massive flying scroll and a woman squashed into a basket with a lead cover. What's it all about? Let's look at each of these visions in turn.

The first vision, described in verses 1-3, is of a scroll thirty feet long and fifteen feet in diameter. It has words written on both sides of it, rather like the scroll Ezekiel saw when he was called to announce God's impending judgment on Jerusalem (Ezekiel 2:9-10). On the one side it said, "Every thief will be banished" and on the other, "everyone who swears falsely will be banished" (v.3). The scroll represents the law of God, the word of God – perhaps particularly the Ten Commandments.

This scroll is sent out by God to travel through the whole land. Nothing remains hidden from its investigation as it enters houses to seek out those who persistently transgress God's law. Those houses are demolished by the scroll.

This strange picture symbolises the power of God's word to do what God has sent it to do; in particular, in this instance, its power to discern sin and condemn the sinner. It is the same truth that is expressed, using a different picture, in Hebrews 4:12-13:

The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

God is looking for a people who reflect his own holy character; a people who hate sin as he hates sin and who seek to avoid anything that would cause offence to him. And this is not primarily out of fear of punishment but out of love for God who has redeemed us and made us his own through the shed blood of his Son. We are a people who welcome the word of God and are glad of its power, for it has worked within us to give us life and fill us with joy and peace in believing.

The second vision is of a woman in a basket (vv. 5-11). The Hebrew word is that used for a measuring basket, used to measure grain. The picture is again of wickedness that has been discovered among God's people – perhaps here particularly related to dishonest trade, such as, "skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales" (Amos 8:6). Such practices were designed to increase the riches of the merchants while exploiting the poor. God finds such things abhorrent and wants them removed from among his people.

The basket is taken off to Babylon where a house is built for it – just as a house has been built for the Lord in Jerusalem. The basket is symbolic of the temptation to turn trade and the making of money into an idol. It is an idol that attracts the worship of the kingdoms of this world but which is to have no place among the people of God. (Compare the picture of the fall of "Babylon" in the Book of Revelation and the accompanying mourning of the merchants who gained their wealth through trade with that great city, see Revelation 18:9-19.)

God calls us to be a people whose loyalties are not divided between serving him who has given himself for us and the self-service of mammon. The Lord has made his home among us and calls us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as he has loved us.

Father God, we recognise the uncompromising nature of your call upon our lives; you have given your all for us and call us to undivided devotion to you. We recognise that we cannot do this in our own strength. By your Spirit help us to be more like your Son and to live by every word that you have spoken. May our lives draw others to you rather than driving them away by the ugly things they see in our lives.  

Peter Misselbrook