“I looked up again and saw a flying scroll. ‘What do you see?’ he asked me. ‘I see a flying scroll,’ I replied, ‘thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
There’s an old legal maxim which says that “justice delayed is justice denied.” Martin Luther King, Jr. adapted this in his Civil Rights work and made it “rights delayed are rights denied.” The idea is that there is a point at which delaying something good or right becomes little different from denying it entirely. When it comes to God’s justice, sometimes it feels like this idea applies to Him. Passages like this next vision of Zechariah’s reminds us this is not the case.
Here we are in the sixth vision of Zechariah with two more to go after this one. If you’ll remember from yesterday, this one is a reflection of vision number three. They both roughly set their sights on the restoration of Israel and the kind of character that will be necessary to remain there.
The vision itself uses this odd imagery of a giant flying scroll. It’s dimensions are literally 20 cubits by 10 cubits, but many translations put that in feet for the sake of their American readers. For my readers in one of the other 192 nations that use the metric system, the scroll is just over 9 meters long and about 4.5 meters wide. Simply put: It’s a really big scroll. This is probably not a reference to its unrolled length as most scrolls unrolled were not merely twice as long as they were wide, but 10 to 15 times as long. These are likely the rolled dimensions meaning that it stood 30 feet tall and 15 feet thick. In other words and again, it’s a really big scroll.
Why? This is one of those questions on which we can postulate, but for which we don’t have any kind of a solid answer. I like to think that this is an image of the weight and profundity of the Law of Moses. Zechariah’s angelic guide says the scroll is “the curse that is going out over the whole land.” The Hebrew word in question there seems to point to the curses of disobedience from Moses’ farewell speech in Deuteronomy.
But, instead of the whole Law being referenced, the angelic guide only mentions two crimes: stealing and swearing falsely (that is, lying). What about all the other sins a person could commit? Is there something particularly notable about these two? Probably not. If you think about it, these two particular sins can be seen as representative of the whole of the Ten Commandments. One represents the six sins that are primarily against people, and the other represents the four sins that are primarily against God. In other words, this scroll is bringing justice to people who have sinned. Specifically, though, the angelic guide says the scroll is going out for people who have “gone unpunished” for their sins. This is a vision of judgment.
This is a little odd, though, because the people here were still fairly fresh out of their national timeout in Babylon…which was a punishment for their national sins. What sins have gone unpunished among the people? That’s not entirely clear. As you read through the narratives of Ezra and Nehemiah, though, it is clear that the people were falling right back into some sinful habits on the other side of the exile, so this could just have those sins in mind.
For all the things that are not clear about this vision what is clear is that it is a picture of justice and judgment being served. Justice may have been delayed for some amount of time, but it will not be denied.
Now, broaden this out a bit more to our own situation. Sometimes God delays in bringing justice for sins. He does this in His wisdom and grace. How we feel about this depends on which side of the sin we happen to fall. If we are the ones who are doing the sinning, justice delayed is a very good thing. Besides, our sin wasn’t that bad. We deserved to get a little break. If we are the ones who are the victims of the sin, however, justice delayed is a terrible thing. How could God possibly tolerate such evil if He really is the good God everyone claims Him to be?
See how that works?
The truth is that God is just. Period. He will always do the right thing. But, He is also love. Period. He will always do the gracious and kind thing. How do those work together? Well, not always in ways we understand in the moment. There’s more to God’s character, though, that goes into understanding them. God is also eternal and He created us for eternity. But, in our current state, we are severely limited by our temporality. In other words, we can only see things from a very limited perspective. That makes it seem like justice gets denied far more often than we are comfortable. And yet, He is a just God and justice will come.
That is a truth with which we are brought face to face in the Scriptures time and time again. All sins will eventually be brought to justice. God’s justice will be satisfied. Perfectly and completely. If we have committed sins, those will be brought to justice. When you start thinking about all the sins just you have committed, that’s a pretty uncomfortable thought. It is what makes the grace of God so amazing. His justice was satisfied in Christ. Our sins have already been covered. Remember the verse from 1 Peter I shared recently? He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree. Or, as the prophet Isaiah put it, “he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds.” God’s justice is satisfied in Christ.
Your sins have been covered. You can be clean. You only need to receive what has already been offered. Receive and begin taking part in the life that is truly life.