For the Love of God, Volume 2/December 18
From Gospel Translations
2 Chronicles 21; Revelation 9; Zechariah 5; John 8
BEFORE REFLECTING BRIEFLY on the two visions of Zechariah 5, I must go back and add a note on Zechariah 3—4.
Chapters 3 and 4 clearly carry messianic overtones. For Zechariah 3, see the meditation for December 16: though the primary reference is to the reconstruction of 519 B.C., the stone (3:9), the Branch (3:8), and the temple all point beyond themselves. That significance is tied in Zechariah 4 to the two “sons of oil” (i.e., “the two who are anointed,” 4:14) who “serve the Lord of all the earth” (4:14). In the historical context, the two are Zerubbabel the governor, who is also the Davidic prince, and Joshua the priest. The one rebuilds the temple; the other offers the sacrifices prescribed by the covenantal sacrificial system. These two “messiahs,” these two anointed ones, exercise complementary roles. Together the two point forward to the ultimate Davidic king and the ultimate priest. The people of Qumran (a monastic community by the Dead Sea, still operating in Jesus’ day) actually expected two different messiahs, one Davidic and one priestly. They did not know how both the kingly and the priestly functions would come together in one man, the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth.
The two visions of chapter 5 leave aside the messianic overtones of the previous two chapters and focus on the continuing lawlessness and violence in the land. Yet the change of theme is not arbitrary. One of the functions of the Davidic king was to enforce justice (3:7; see 2 Sam. 15:2-3). Priests, too, were charged with administering justice (e.g., Deut. 17:9). The prophets foretold a time of perfect justice (Isa. 11:3-5; Jer. 23:5).
The first of the two visions (the flying scroll, 5:1-4) promises judgment on the lawless. The scroll represents the whole law, not least its sanctions on those who defy God. These are God’s words, and God’s words have the power to accomplish all of God’s purposes. The second vision, of the woman in a basket (5:5-11), deals with the persistence of evil in the community. Because the Hebrew word for “wickedness” is feminine, it is personified in this vision as a woman—the Old Testament equivalent of the woman Babylon, the mother of prostitutes, in Revelation 17. Just as evil is often hidden, so is she—until she is exposed. The only answer is God’s: she is taken away to “Babylonia” (5:11) where she belongs. Thus God removes sin from his people as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:11-12). He washes away the uncleanness of his people (Ezek. 36:25), and the filthy garments are replaced by clean ones (Zech. 3), or else we have no hope at all.