Sermon #24 Zechariah Series
Title: The Curse
Text: Zechariah 5:1-4
Subject: Zechariah’s 6th Vision — The Flying Roll
Date: Sunday Morning — January 1, 2006
Reading: Revelation 20:1-15
Tape # Zechariah #24
In the first four chapters of Zechariah’s prophecy, we have seen five visions of encouragement. Each of those five visions is full of grace. Being full of grace, they are filled with hope and consolation. But Zechariah 5 opens with a vision that reveals not even the slightest hint of mercy and grace. Everything Zechariah saw in his sixth vision was justice and judgment and “the curse” upon “the face of the whole earth.” This vision of “a flying roll” is a vision of God’s well-deserved judgment and wrath.
(Zechariah 5:1-4) “Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll. (2) And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits. (3) Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it. (4) I will bring it forth, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.”
The “flying roll” Zechariah saw is clearly identified in verse three: “This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth.” This “flying roll” (or scroll) is a picture of the curse of God’s holy law upon sinners everywhere, “over the face of the whole earth.” It is a just curse, a curse upon the guilty, the thief and the swearer.
God’s prophets are his ambassadors. As such, they speak peace to the sons of peace. And God’s prophets are also his heralds, proclaiming judgment against rebel sinners who will not be reconciled to their God. In the vision now before us, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Our God performs great wonders of mercy, love, and grace for his people. And the faithful in Zion rejoice in them.
But it is written, “The sinners in Zion are afraid.” And well they should be. There is an appointed time when God will pour upon the ungodly all the fury of his holy wrath and justice. When fearfulness takes the hypocrite by surprise, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa. 33:14)
The Flying Roll
First, Zechariah saw “a flying roll.” — “Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll” (v. 1).
What a strange sight that must have been. It was not strange to see a book in the form of a roll. That was common in ancient times. A book would be written out on pieces of parchment and then rolled up in the form of a cylinder. Jeremiah was commanded to write such a book (Jer. 36:2).
(Jeremiah 36:2) “Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day.”
But this was an astonishing vision, because this “flying roll” was huge — “The length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits” (v. 2). It was 30 feet long and 15 feet wide. That is a good size book! It was written on “this side” and “that side” (v. 3), like the seven sealed book John saw in Revelation 5, “written within and on the backside.” Above all else, the message of this “flying roll” was astonishing. Its message is “a curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth!”
The Scriptures of the Old Testament and the New are rolls. In them God has written out the great things of both the law’s curse and the gospel’s blessings. They are large rolls, upon which is written the full revelation of God. And they are flying rolls. The angel that had the everlasting gospel to preach flew in the midst of heaven (Rev. 14:6) So God’s Word runs very swiftly (Ps. 147:15), according to his will.
(Psalms 147:15) “He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.”
But that which Zechariah saw was a roll containing only the curse of the law. There is not a word of grace in the whole book. The writing of this roll, this book, was the writing of the commandments of the law given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Like the two tables of the law, it was written “on this side” and “on that side” (v. 3; Ex. 32:15).
(Exodus 32:15) “And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.”
First set of commandments, the first table of the law, deal with man’s relationship to God. There, as we read in Exodus 20:7, “everyone that sweareth” (v. 3), or as it is more fully stated in the next verse, “sweareth falsely by my name,” is condemned. It is written, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” The “flying roll” curses all who swear falsely by God’s name (v.4).
What is meant by those words, “sweareth falsely by my name”? Every breach of the first table of the law is a denial of God’s right to be worshipped and served as God alone, and is an act of idolatry. Those who swear falsely by his name declare that which is false concerning God’s being and work, and swear to it. As they swear to their falsehood, so the Lord God says, “Amen,” to their damnation.
The second set of commandments, the second table of the law, deal with our relationship to other people. There we read, “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15). But, in reality, every breach of the law is a crime against God. If I steal from a man, I have robbed God himself of that which he gave to that man. So the curse is the same for him that “stealeth,” as for him that “sweareth falsely by” by God’s name.
Everyone who steals, by fraud or by force, takes that which is not his own. Judging by the context, I think these words specifically refer to the crime of sacrilege, taking that which is God’s for ourselves. The Jews in Zechariah’s day robbed God by neglecting to give him his due in building his house, while they built their own houses. Therefore, the “houses” they build were to be “consumed” by God’s “curse” (Neh. 13:10; Mal. 3:5,-10).
(Nehemiah 13:10) “And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.”
(Malachi 3:5-10) “And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. (6) For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. (7) Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? (8) Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. (9) Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. (10) Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Sin is nothing less than the attempt of man to sneak into the holy place of the Most High God, slit his throat, rape him, and rob God himself of his honor as God!
In verses 3 and 4 the “flying roll” puts its curse on those who steal and swear falsely by God’s name. Only two breaches of the law are mentioned, one from each table of the law, but these two breaches of the law declare , _ “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). That statement, found in Galatians 3:10, is a taken from Deuteronomy 27:26 and 21:23. — “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.” — “He that is hanged is accursed of God.”
(Zechariah 5:3-4) “Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it. (4) I will bring it forth, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.”
Ministration of Death
The intent of this vision is to show us the vastness of the law’s demands and to pronounce the universality of its curse upon all who are without Christ, thus setting before us the great grace of the gospel. The law is called “the ministration of death;” and that is what it is. It pronounces the curse of God upon fallen man. It does nothing, but curse, and damn, and slay. The law is like the roll described in Ezekiel 2:9-10, full of lamentations, and mourning, and woe (Deut. 27:15-26; 28:15-45).
(Deuteronomy 27:15-26) “Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen. (16) Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen. (17) Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen. (18) Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way. And all the people shall say, Amen. (19) Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen. (20) Cursed be he that lieth with his father’s wife; because he uncovereth his father’s skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen. (21) Cursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast. And all the people shall say, Amen. (22) Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen. (23) Cursed be he that lieth with his mother in law. And all the people shall say, Amen. (24) Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen. (25) Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen. (26) Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.”
(Deuteronomy 28:15-45) “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: (16) Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. (17) Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. (18) Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. (19) Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. (20) The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me. (21) The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it. (22) The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish. (23) And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. (24) The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed. (25) The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. (26) And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away. (27) The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. (28) The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart: (29) And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee. (30) Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof. (31) Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt not eat thereof: thine ass shall be violently taken away from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee: thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies, and thou shalt have none to rescue them. (32) Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long: and there shall be no might in thine hand. (33) The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway: (34) So that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. (35) The LORD shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head. (36) The LORD shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone. (37) And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee. (38) Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it. (39) Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. (40) Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit. (41) Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity. (42) All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume. (43) The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. (44) He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail. (45) Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:”
(Deuteronomy 28:53-57) “And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the LORD thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee: (54) So that the man that is tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he shall leave: (55) So that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat: because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates. (56) The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, (57) And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.”
The Roll’s Size
Obviously the size of the roll is a matter of importance. It was, as we read in verse 2, twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide, thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide. Those are the exact dimensions of two things in the Old Testament. The porch of Solomon’s temple, where the law was read (1 Kings 6:3) was thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide. And the holy place of the tabernacle; containing the candlestick, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense, was thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide (Ex. 26).
Both the porch of Solomon’s temple and the holy place were points of entry into the presence of God. In a word, this vision of the “flying roll” is God’s declaration that no man can approach him and be accepted by him who does not keep the whole law perfectly (Lev. 26:3-12). Any failure to keep the law, any breach of it, must forever bar sinners fro the holy Lord God. — “Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20).
Open and Flying
Zechariah saw the book of God’s law, the book of God’s curse, open, flying through the air, pronouncing the curse upon sinners “over the face of the whole earth.” What is the significance of that?
The fact that it was open, allowed it to be measured and points to that day when the books shall be opened and everyone, whose name is not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, shall be judged by Christ (Acts 17:31; Dan. 7:10; Rev. 20:12).
(Acts 17:31) “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”
(Daniel 7:10) “A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.”
(Revelation 20:12) “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”
The fact that it is open for all to see, (so completely open that it is written in the heart and conscience of every person in the world), means that all are without excuse before God (Rom. 1 and 2).
The fact that this roll was seen open and flying over the earth declares that no one who has broken or in any way failed to perfectly obey God’s holy law shall escape its curse (Amos 9:1-3).
(Amos 9:1-3) “I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered. (2) Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down: (3) And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them:”
In a word, the whole law is nothing but “the ministration of death” and “the ministration of condemnation,” as the Holy Spirit tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:6-9.
(2 Corinthians 3:2-9) “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: (3) Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. (4) And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: (5) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; (6) Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (7) But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: (8) How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? (9) For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.”
The law is a killing letter, nothing but a killing letter, hard and unbending, written on tablets of stone. It discovers and exposes sin. It pronounces the wrath and curse of God. It shows us our duty, but gives no strength to perform it. It is “the ministration of death” and “condemnation.” It cannot forgive. It cannot pardon. It cannot justify. It cannot sanctify. It cannot cleanse. It cannot offer hope. All the law can do is curse, condemn, and kill. And the death it ministers is both complete and everlasting destruction (Zech. 3:4; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).
(Zechariah 3:4) “And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.”
(Deut. 28:24-26) “(24) The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed. (25) The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. (26) And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away.”
(2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (8) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (9) Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”
Shut up to Christ
All this darkness and gloom, all this revelation of universal sin, and the universal curse of God’s holy law is given to shut us up to Christ, to drive us into the arms of him who is Deliverance from the curse of the law. How blessed, how joyful, how sweet the sound of the gospel is to those who have known and tasted the curse of the law! Blessed be his precious name forever, the Son of God has taken the curse of the law for us and taken it away forever!
(Deuteronomy 21:22-23) “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: (23) His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”
(Galatians 3:13-14) “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (14) That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
(2 Corinthians 5:19-21) “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (20) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
(Romans 8:1-4) “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (3) For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (4) That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
(Romans 8:33-34) “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. (34) Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”
As he is the end of the curse, so our blessed Savior is the end of the law forever to every sinner who trusts him (Rom. 10:4).
(Romans 10:4) “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
How has the Lord Jesus Christ become the end of the law?
· He ended it by fulfilling all is requirements, bringing in everlasting righteousness.
· He ended it by satisfying all its demands, by satisfying the justice of God as our Substitute.
· He becomes the end of the law to every ransomed sinner by faith.
The day of the law and its curse is over, finished, annulled, ended forever, the day the poor sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ! That is the good news of the gospel!
Free from the law, Oh happy condition,
Jesus has bled and there is remission,
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us — Once for all.
Now we are free — There’s no condemnation,
Jesus provides a perfect salvation.
“Come unto Me,” Oh, hear his sweet call,
Come, and He saves us Once for all.
“Children of God,” Oh, glorious calling,
Surely his grace will keep us from falling;
Passing from death to life at his call;
Blessed salvation — Once for all.
Once for all, Oh, sinner receive it,
Once for all, Oh, brother, believe it;
Cling to the cross, the burden will fall
Christ hath redeemed us — Once for all!