The Flying Scroll
By Msn Mark Moon
Key Verse 5:2
“He asked me, ‘What do you see?’ I answered, ‘I see a flying scroll, thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide.’”
The first five visions are certainly prophecies of hope and of glory. They abound in most glorious promises of restoration and enlargement of temporal and spiritual prosperity and blessing. These promises in the full sense are still to be fulfilled. God has promised restoration but before that longed for day of blessing can come, both the land and people must be cleansed from everything that defiles or works wickedness. For covenant blessings may not be enjoyed without covenant obedience.
How will God deal with the sinner and the ungodly who reject his covenant? The LORD Almighty has two ways to deal with sin and remove iniquity, both of which are in perfect accord with the absolute holiness of His character. The preferred one is Grace, the other is Law. If a person refuses to accept Grace, which is so beautifully depicted in chapter three by the cleansing and clothing of Joshua, the representative of God’s people, then the only other option is to be visited with severe punishment. When a sinner is so intertwined in his sin that he will not be separated from it, he will become an object of God’s judgment and will be cleansed away from the earth. This thought is described in the two visions of chapter five. The prophecy has application to the restored remnant community, but it goes beyond the immediate historical situation and portrays the severe destruction of sinners prior to the establishment of the kingdom of God and the Messiah’s reign of justice.
The interest catching vision of the flying scroll is introduced in verse 1. “I looked again – and there before me was a flying scroll!” Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold! A flying scroll! Other translations for example, KJV and RSV used the word “behold”. Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll! (RSV)
The prophet was absorbed in a season of meditation concerning the wonderful things which had been presented to him in his previous visions. Now he senses in his spirit a new vision approaching. The lifting up of his eyes brings the blessing of a new vision into his perception. Behold! indicates that his attention was drawn to an object in an intense manner.
The angel asks the prophet to interpret what he sees in verse 2. And he said to me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll, thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide.” The scroll was spread out so it could be read and unrolled so its dimensions could be seen. That is such a large and eye-catching object in the sky that everyone can see and recognize. In our time, people would take pictures and immediately post on Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube, and millions of people would follow and talk about. News media would cover it in detail in the evening news.
He sees a flying scroll. The scroll is a message or pronouncement of importance from God to man. This flying scroll like some bird of prey visually symbolizes the active energy of the Word of God it represents. The scroll is flying in because its pronouncements will be swiftly carried out.
What is written in the scroll? Look at verse 3. It is “the curse that is going out over the whole land.” This vision was revealed to Israel, but its implication was for the whole land, everybody in everywhere regardless of their belief, religion, or anything else. It is universal. The message is simple and straightforward. If people do not seek the forgiveness of sins, the dreadful curse is coming. Such a bold, clear declaration of punishment for sin should spur people to repentance and righteousness.
The interpreting angel tells Zechariah the significance of what he is seeing in verse 3. Then 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.”
To Israel, ‘curse’ is related to their covenant with Holy God. The covenant created a mutual agreement between the LORD and His people. To maintain that bond-relationship they must obey God’s commands. Such obedience brought blessing. However, if they disobeyed the LORD’s commands, they violated the covenant relationship and incurred the curse of divine displeasure. This had been vividly brought before the people in the ceremony where the blessings were proclaimed from Mount Gerizim and the curses from Mount Ebal (Deut. 11:26-29; 27:12-13; Josh. 8:33-34).
Such a large scroll must have contained more than the two transgressions which are specified. The two indicated are the breaking of the third and eighth commandments. Since the curse references commandments toward God and man it could also indicate the breaking of the summation of commandments that is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthews 22:37-40). Thus the curse could be taken for as individual commandments or as the summary of the whole law. It is better seen as representative of the entire law. But in any case, one who stumbles at just one point of the law is guilty of breaking the whole law (Jas. 2:10).
The effect of this curse is very dreadful. The law breakers will be purged away, cleansed out, cut off or banished from the land of the living. The extent of this curse is the whole earth, not just Israel. However, judgment begins with the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17f). Wherever law-breakers are, they are not too far for the curse of God to find them. Against all offenders and sinners, the scroll goes out and is therefore seen flying— that is, traveling rapidly over the whole land and signifying the swiftness with which the judgment of God’s will finally overtake the wicked.
The curse of the broken covenant was no idle threat. What was written on the scroll is not stated, but the results of its message are given in verse 4. “The Lord Almighty declares, ‘I will send it out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name. It will remain in that house and destroy it completely, both its timbers and its stones.’”
Two classes of evildoers are singled out as being about to be cut off as a result of the God’s curse. These two classes, thieves and perjurers, are mentioned by way of illustration, not with the thought that others would be allowed to continue in their sins. Terrible judgment is in store for those who swear falsely by God’s name which could mean those that claim a relationship with God that they do not have.
“I will send it out” indicates that the scroll which is already on its way will be caused by the LORD Almighty to enter the house of the wicked. The curse will stay in the house until it has accomplished the total destruction for which it was sent. The Lord himself “will” bring the curse. So here we see the certainty which God’s judgments will finally overtake the wicked. Man may avoid detection of his/her sins and due punishment before other people, but he/she cannot possibly escape God. “Be sure your sins will find you out” and so will its inevitable punishment. In our present time of grace and divine patience with the sins of men, while the gospel of salvation is proclaimed, God is for the most part silent to the blasphemies and crimes of ungodly sinners until the time of the restoration of all things. Sinners are often undetected in their spiritual crimes against Holy God and may even seem to prosper but divine judgment will one day be rapid and complete.
“It will enter the house of the thief and the house of him who swears falsely by my name.” (4a) The judgment is inescapable. In the place where the transgressor may think that he can hide, where he thinks himself most secure, he will find that God’s avenging justice cannot be kept out, even by high walls, steel gates and the most sophisticated security system.
The designation thief is not limited to those who steal from God by refusing to give Him His due tithes (Nehemiah 13 and Malachi 3:8) but all who are guilty of theft including those who stole their life by refusing to listen to the owner of all.
God will not spare the sinner He finds among His own people, if they have sworn falsely by His name and entered by another way than the door of salvation which is Jesus Christ.
“It will remain in his house and destroy it, both its timbers and its stones.” (4b) The curse will not just pay him a passing visit but it shall stay there until it accomplishes its complete destruction. There will be no getting rid of the curse until it has done its purging work.
The description, “destroy its timbers and its stones” emphasizes the thoroughness of divine judgment. The terribleness of the punishment which sin brings down upon itself will extend even to the destruction of the building blocks of their homes. There are no half measures when God punishes.
In summary, God has promised restoration to the repentant remnant but before that period of blessing can dawn, God must deal with stubborn and unrepentant sinners. If the way of Grace is not accepted, judgment must come. Sin is an intensely personal undertaking and God’s visitation upon it will be equally personal. There is only one way by which we can escape the curse of a broken law, so that we don’t have to be purged away with our sins by God’s wrath into destruction, and that way is to be cleansed from our sins in that fountain which God has opened in the pierced side of the Messiah for our sins and which makes the vilest “whiter than snow.” Gospel declares, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’” (Galatians 3:13)
More than that, the holiness of God should be reflected in his people. “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:14-16).