A Call to Holiness in God’s Community
This vision in our text is about a call to purity; a daily Holy living within the community of God’s people who were just restored from the Babylonian exile. First and foremost, the fact that God’s people are a holy people is rooted in the Person of God who is Holy. He calls His people, sets them apart by entering into a loving covenant relationship with them. They are to be a kingdom of priesthood and a holy nation (Ex. 19:6).
This God given position and status comes with a responsibility. He says to them “Be holy, for, I the Lord your God, am Holy”. This implies that there is a kind of lifestyle required of God’s people. They do not live for themselves alone, but rather they are to live out their holy lives in such a way that the world will be transformed by the power of God living in, through and among His people.
God’s Holy standards are not a burden to His people but rather they are for their protection. Many times, it comes in a form of discipline. Heb. 12:4-11 talks about how God’s discipline purifies His people and brings them back to their senses. It will be painful but it puts them on the right path.
Declaring the Justice of God
God decided to communicate to Zechariah through a vision. This is the sixth of the eight prophetic visions. What the Prophet saw was a scroll but there are some unusual things about this scroll; first, it is not in the hands of a scribe or a reader – which would be its natural location. This one is a large unrolled flying scroll waving like a banner over the land for all to see; the righteous and the sinners as well (v2).
The size and location of the scroll may signify its universal power and potency over all. It is up there for all to see and it is big enough to cover a wide territory. Also, by reason of the scroll being suspended, it has the likelihood of a swift judgment over the area of its visibility.
Secondly, scrolls will normally have writings on one side only. This one has writing on both sides. It is important to note that this outlook connects to the foundational covenant document of the children of Israel; the stone tablets given to Moses on mount Sinai (Ex. 32:15); they had writings on both sides.
This connection will remind the reader that the violation done by the post-exilic Israel community is connected to the Mosaic covenant which God entered into with the children of Israel. By reason of the violation, that flying scroll is a curse that is going out over the land (v3). God’s Covenant command has been violated and He will stand just before all the inhabitants of the land through what will follow.
Hence, the nation is now warned of what is coming to those who have chosen to be unrighteous. God is declaring His justice to the entire community. This is God’s law, judging God’s people who are a people of the law. I see a wave of God’s banner over Nigeria, Africa and the entire globe today because His people have violated His covenant of love; are we able to read (understand) the message?
God’s justice is not a gorilla justice; God runs an open Justice system and everyone who has the law can see it; it is an open book. There is a way we read God’s word without anyone telling us; we are dissected and subsequently convicted and instructed by it. In this way, we avert God’s wrath when He dissects us Himself. His visit comes with judgment because what that means is that we have failed to hearken to the soft guiding voice of the Holy Spirit.
You need to understand that this is a Holy Nation that needs to represent the divine council on earth – much like Church today. But what we see is an enclave of thieves amongst God’s people. This is the same thing Jesus had to deal with, in the Temple, when He says “My Father’s house is a house of prayer but the people have turned it to a den of thieves”. Today, we are that God’s Temple; His habitation. What have you turned that God’s house into?
I also see the large flying scroll picturing the Gospel message that will reach the ends of the earth to convict the world of her sins and draw men to God. It reminds me of Jesus lifted for all to see. His death is the salvation of those who come to Him and is judgment to those who reject Him. Jesus on the cross is the wider declaration of God’s justice before the entire world
Purging the Community of Unrighteousness
God’s community which was to be the salt and the light of the world, has become rotten and is polluting the community with a bad stench. They had become thieves and liars (v3). “The salt that has lost its saltiness will be thrown on the ground and be trampled upon”.
God Himself was going to purge the land of sinners and all forms of unrighteousness. This is what the Cross has achieved today. I can boldly say that believers in Nigeria and indeed in the entire Africa are being trampled because we have lost our saltiness. We need to repent.
The sins of the community violate two principal commandments of the Lord. Theft – violates the 8th commandment while lying violates the 3rd. The lying as captured here goes beyond untruthfulness, it is more of perjury (lying under oath) which has a sense of perverting justice after being accused of a crime.
To commit these two is to violate the whole. To swear falsely is a misuse of the name of the Lord that falls under the first five of the Ten commandments, while to steal falls under the second five of the Ten commandments. The first five is a test on the people’s love for God while the second five sums up the love of the people for one another; this is the summary of the Law as captured by the Gospel.
This gives us the picture of the moral state of the returnees. Many among them were poor and possibly pressured to do all kinds of things to survive – the end justifies the means as some would say. Oppression, probably from the haves, must have turned some to all kinds of immoral activities. What are you pressured and what is it that causes you to compromise? All will get their share of punishment; the oppressed who compromised and the oppressors as well.
The language used suggests that the writer borrowed more from Leviticus 19:9-18 than the decalogue. This is seen in how the text follows up with love thy neighbour and the injunction that the poor should not be oppressed. This shows that the focus is on the community.
God will then send the scroll to the homes of all individual sinners. It is a curse that will remain there until it will destroy the house of all those who are guilty of perpetually remaining in the said sins. Paul seems to capture this same idea when he says if you destroy God’s Temple (by living a life of sin) God will equally destroy you.
This is a warning and a call to repentance to avert the curse hovering over the community. This is a call to believers today that if we cry out to God, He will lift up His countenance towards us, forgive us and heal our land.
Looking at our text, God’s judgment seems to be directed toward a specific target (v4). The destruction of “the house of the thief and the liar” may symbolize that whatever they built from stealing and lying will all be destroyed by God.
All those who stole in the name of building their financial base or personal empires will lose everything when God’s judgement descends upon them. Also, those who took the inheritance of God’s children everywhere and lied about it will wake up one day and see only destruction!
Violating God’s covenant invites God’s judgment upon His people first before others. Granted that there is a lot of suffering in the world today, yet not all of them are God’s discipline. Many of them just remind us of the fallen world we live in and the evil choices some submit to.
Many in our country today manipulate the justice system to get by. They oppress the less privileged and no one can do anything about it. They lie to steal and empower themselves economically. Nobody is left out in the game. There are people who speak in the name of Jesus to put food on their table and attain economic power. God’s judgment will certainly find them.
The lessons for us here are these:
Don’t lie and steal in order to accumulate wealth, they will become a source of judgment and you will lose them all.
Don’t oppress people that are vulnerable and cause them to fall. The Lord will seek their blood from you. Be truthful and just to one another.
Don’t compromise because the situation is harsh, have faith, trust God and speak your need to God’s community to access God’s resources.
We need to avoid ungodly association; that way God’s judgment on the wicked will not befall the righteous (Ps. 26:4-12). Many today have lost their conscience. They are dining at the table of the enemy. Our greed and lust for wealth and material things has caused many so-called believers to compromise their faith and life in the society. They are selling us out for their gains. God’s judgment is hovering over.
Finally, God’s Word must be at the centre of leading and guiding His people. We must not only engage with the Word as individuals, but also reading the Scripture in the family and community context must be encouraged. This is all that Ezra firmly stood for.
The Psalmist says “Blessed is the nation whose God is Yahweh…” (Ps. 33:12). God’s family and community must be kept Holy. This way, curses which spell death are cancelled by blessings which spell life.
Rev Solomon Guruza Ubasi is serving as the Senior Pastor at ECWA Seminary Church and the Chaplain/Lecturer at Jos ECWA Theological Seminary. He is currently a PhD candidate with OCPRL.
Photo by Cullan Smith on Unsplash