Zechariah 5 has the prophet seeing two visions form the Lord. The first involved a flying scroll. “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits….This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land”. The scroll was approximately 15 by 30 feet. It is apparently open to read because Zechariah can see how large the scroll is. The text on the scroll contains the Ten Commandments. “For everyone who steals shall be cleaned….and everyone who swears falsely…”. The two sins, one from each side of the tablets of the Ten Commandments, represent all of Israel’s sin. God will curse the people who commit these sins and their house.
God will hold us accountable for how we live. Sin carries a price. We are all guilty – scripture is clear about that. We will stand before God someday and have to give an account and explain to God about our choices. We’ll stand there unholy and in judgment. The penalty is eternal and will cause us to be separated from God unless we have received the shed blood of Christ through God’s free offer of grace that will cover all our sin and set us free. God’s scroll is still flying through the lands. We are under that reality, but we do have a way to overcome our sin today – Jesus Christ.
Zechariah then sees another vision. “This is the basket….the leaden cover was lifted, and there was a woman sitting in the basket”! The woman, the basket, and the weight are associated with wickedness. They represent greed, materialism, and dishonesty for profit. Zechariah prophesied to those who returned from the Babylonian exile. God’s people came back from Babylon with a materialism problem, and this vision speaks to this problem. God is going to fix their issue and clear the focus on stuff rather than Him.
God is sending the sin back to where it originated. God has two beings with wings and “they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven” and carried it back to Babylon. God will cause this evil, materialistic spirit to be returned to its starting-place: Babylon. There it will eventually be destroyed. The problems of the people in Zechariah’s time are the same that many of us face today. Materialism can get between us and God and make us feel self sufficient and not needing God at all. That’s a dangerous place to be, and God will remove that feeling by wiping out that which we hold so dear.
Zechariah 3 has the prophet seeing a vision with God, Joshua and Satan in it. “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him”. Zechariah sees the High Priest in the presence of the Lord (standing before the Angel of the Lord), and he is clothed with filthy garments. Joshua isn’t in God’s presence just as a spectator but as a ministering priest. Satan was accusing Joshua of not being fit to stand before the Lord in his filth. This is exactly what we should expect from Satan. He will be our accuser and will tell God we are not worthy to be in His Kingdom.
Unfortunately, he’ll be right. Sin will prevent us from the opportunity to just enter into God’s presence. It covers us in filth. But as God dealt with Satan during this vision, He’ll also deal with Satan’s accusations when we stand before Him at judgment day. Satan can’t condemn us to hell. He can only attack and accuse. The question will be how we answer God’s questions about our sin. What have we done with Jesus and the grace offered to cover our sin? If we answer that Jesus is our Savior and Lord and we’ve received the free gift of grace God provided, we’ll hear the same words as Joshua did. “I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments”. If not, the accuser will get his way and we’ll spend eternity apart from God.
God promises a fantastic future to Joshua if he walks with Him. “If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here”. God promised Joshua that he would continue to serve as High Priest if he was diligent to stay obedient to God. How we live matters. It’s the second part of the discussion we’ll have with God on judgment day. One question determines where we spend eternity – the question of what we’ve done with Jesus and our sin. The second is about how we spend that eternity which is based on how we live and walk with God and His commandments to us.
The vision goes further to show the breadth of God’s redemption and love. God is creating a picture of what will be for those who walk in His ways. “In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree”. This is a powerful way for God to remind us that we can receive protection and prosperity and peace if we walk with God. This vision and word from Zechariah shows how much God wanted to encourage and strengthen Joshua, and He does it in the best way: setting his eyes on our Messiah, Jesus Christ. That’s our best encouragement also. Jesus is the answer, yesterday, today and forever. Are your eyes on Him?
Zechariah 1 has the next prophet speaking truth to the people of Judah. He comes after the remnant has returned from their 70 year exile in Babylon. The timing of Zechariah’s prophecy sets it two months after Haggai’s first prophecy and within a month after another prophecy of Haggai. This was between October and November of 520 b.c. Like Haggai, Zechariah’s message is one of encouragement. But he was aware that not all the returned remnant were fully sincere in their desires to serve God, and he instructs them to repent of their sin and return to God with all their hearts and minds.
Zechariah is preaching a message of restoration. “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts”. God is always in the restoration business. He wants us to come back. But these people have lived in very adverse conditions and have experienced difficult times. They wondered why God was so far from them:
- Their land was desolate and unkempt
- There was extremely hard work needed to rebuild things
- They were short on money and people to do the work
- Crops failed
- Their enemies continued to resist their work
- Like the captives Moses led out of Egypt, the people looked back at their time in Babylon and thought it was easier there
God is clear in reminding the people why their situation is the way it is. “Do not be like your fathers….Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds….they did not hear or pay attention to me”.
God makes clear what happens if people don’t walk in His ways. “But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented”. God’s commandments and promises last forever. Prior generations chose to disobey God, and they faced the outcome of that. But over time they realized that God’s judgment was consistent and never wavered, so they made a different choice – the choice to repent and be restored. That is what Zechariah is encouraging here – to have God’s people rebuild the temple (the work Haggai was pushing them to do) and to rebuild their relationship with God and learn from the lessons of their fathers.
God will deal with us based on how we live. “As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us”. The people were guilty of sin, and they refused to return to God and His commandments, so God was forced to address their sin and exiled them for 70 years. Harsh punishment, but sin carries a significant price tag. We need to realize that God isn’t just going to look the other way regarding sin. It’s why He sent the most precious thing He had – His very Son – to the cross to provide a way for us to be redeemed and freed from sin. But we have to receive that gift of grace. Just as God says “I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion”. He is the same for you and me. That’s why Easter happened – because God loves us that much and was willing to send His Son to the Cross to restore us to Himself.
Zephaniah calls out the sin of God’s people very clearly – they simply do not listen. “She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God”. Stubborn and unwilling to submit to God’s authority, Zephaniah repeats these four phrases and tells us the root of Jerusalem’s sin:
- God called to His people, but they did not listen.
- Correction certainly came, but she did not receive it as correction from the Lord.
- God never gave her a reason to stop trusting in Him; He never proved Himself unfaithful or untrustworthy. Now God’s people will openly deny and contradict God’s word and promises.
- The worst offense is saved for last. God longs for relationship with His people, but they rejected His desire and went their own way.
God makes it clear that His people won’t be allowed to go on their merry way and ignore Him. “Surely you will fear me; you will accept correction. Then your dwelling would not be cut off according to all that I have appointed against you”. And as is often the case, God will do what He needs to in order to get their attention. I’ve had a number of 2X4 moments in my life, where God does something in order to gain my attention. He’s going to do that to His people, and will cause them to know that He is God.
God has a plan for His people who will be the center of a coming nation. “But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord”. Even as God’s chosen people though, they will understand that they are under His power and protection. They will be under the leadership of the Lord Jesus and His redeemed and they will know that their standing is because of His extravagant grace. God continues to show that He is in the redemption business, and even when His people have chosen to walk away from Him and been punished as a result, He always is ready to welcome them, and us back.
We often underestimate the joy God has in His people, and too often think God is annoyed and frustrated with us. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing”. He is not only able to save us, He takes great joy in doing it. All that is required is that we repent and believe and come running back to Him. He can’t turn loose His lavish love for us if we don’t make the first step. He wants to sing about our return and restoration!
Habakkuk 1 has the prophet carrying a burden of the vision he saw. We really don’t know much about this prophet as this is the only book in the Bible his name appears. Since he prophesied the coming Babylonian army and its destruction of Judah, he prophesied some time before that invasion. Many think that Habakkuk did his work sometime during the reign of King Johoiakim, perhaps around the year 607 b.c. It is likely that he lived during the time of the godly king Josiah (640 to 609 b.c.) and then gave this prophecy during the reign of one of Josiah’s successors.
Habakkuk knew what it was like to live during a time of revival, and then to see God’s people and the nation slide away into sin. Habakkuk sees the problem and presses God to see how long it will last. “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear”? He’s lived through a godly king ruling the land, and now is faced with evil and backsliding. He wondered where God was, and why God did not set things right. Habakkuk could see sin all around himself. The people were full of iniquity causing destruction and violence at every turn.
God has a plan to deal with it – but not exactly what Habakkuk had in mind. “I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own”. When the Chaldeans (Babylonians) came against Judah, they came as sent by the Lord. They wanted to conquer Judah all along, but God allowed that sinful desire to fit into His plan to judge Judah for their sin. It was all part of God’s bigger plan as they conquered and exiled God’s people.
Habakkuk has a problem with God’s approach and wonders why God would use a nation more evil that Judah to do His work. “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he”? The prophet doesn’t get it. This is using worse evil to deal and judge with evil. He felt the cure was maybe worse than the disease. But we have to learn to trust God and have faith in His plan. We can’t see the whole picture like He can. We only see dimly and a bit of the plan. God sees it all and has an absolute method to what He does.
Micah 7 has the prophet confessing the sin of God’s people and defining the state of things. “Woe is me”! He is talking about how dismal things are, and how God’s ways have been left behind. “The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind”. Things are bad, and going to get worse. Sin carries a price and Micah knows what lies ahead. Yet even in the midst of a very bad situation, Micah knows that God is a God of restoration if His people just figure out what they should do.
He makes the path to restoration clear. “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me”. There was no where else to look as everyone else around him was corrupt and living a life of sin separated from God. So Micah points to the One who never leaves nor forsakes us, who is always there ready to welcome us back if we’ll only confess and repent of our sin. God is our only hope, and we need to not only call to Him, but run to Him. He alone will save us.
Of course, all around are those just waiting for us to fall. “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me”. Micah speaks for those brought low by personal sin and the sin of the community. Sin takes us down. It carries a price and separates us from God. But Micah warns enemies to not rejoice over their condition because the Lord will be a light to me. You see me brought low now, but you should know that it isn’t for long. God will lift me up.
“I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until He pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication”. Speaking for the sinful people, Micah steps up and takes responsibility for their sin. He knows that they have sinned, and so he accepts God’s correction. Micah knows that God’s people will stay in their low place until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. They are totally abandoned unto God’s care. That’s our reality. We are sinners. We will be judged. If we have the shed blood of Christ to cover our sins, we’ll be saved. If not, we’ll face judgment for our sin. It’s an easy choice – Jesus or eternal separation. But we have to choose!
Micah 6 has the prophet putting God’s people on trial. Micah pictures a court of law, with Israel trying to defend themselves before the Lord. They are facing the testimony of unshakable witnesses (the mountains and the foundations of the earth), the court comes to order. They are standing before the judge who reminds them of the history of their relationship. “I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam”.
God reminds His people of the redemption He did for them when He saved them from slavery in Egypt. They quickly forgot His faithfulness, and the freedom He gave them to enter the Promised Land. He provided leaders to take them from a place of slavery to a place of freedom and plenty. But they quickly forgot and followed false gods and prophets. How can that happen? They see God lead them faithfully for 40 years and give them all they could ever want in the Promised Land, yet they turn their eyes to idols and other gods and fall into “the sin of my soul”.
God’s desire and expectations are pretty simple. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”? God has shown them clearly what is good and what is required, yet they ignore that and chase after other things. It’s three simple things:
- Do justly: Act in a just, fair way towards others. Treat them they way you want to be treated.
- Love mercy: Don’t just show mercy, but love to show it. Give others the same measure of mercy you want to receive from the Me.
- Walk humbly with your God: Remember who I am – your God. If you keep that in mind, you will walk humbly before Me.
Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on how to walk humbly with God:
- Walk humbly when you are spiritually strong
- Walk humbly when you have much work to do
- Walk humbly in all your motives
- Walk humbly studying God’s word
- Walk humbly when under trials
- Walk humbly in your devotions
- Walk humbly between you and your brothers in Christ
- Walk humbly when dealing with sinners
It’s not difficult, it is a choice!
But God’s people don’t do those three simple things. They insist on doing things their own way. And as a result, Micah makes it clear what lies ahead. “Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow, making you desolate because of your sins”. Sin always carries a price, and it costs more than we want to pay. Sin is always a choice. God will deal with it. We have to learn to walk with Him and do the three things Micah instructs!