“So I asked the angel who was speaking with me, “Where are they taking the basket?” “To build a shrine for it in the land of Shinar,” he told me. “When that is ready, the basket will be placed there on its pedestal.”” (CSB – Read the chapter)
God hates sin. He hates it. He loathes it with every fiber of His being (and there are a lot of fibers of His being). But, He loves us. He loves us perfectly and completely. He could not possibly love us anymore and there’s not a single thing we could do that will make Him love us any less. Even sin. As much as He wants to have us close, though (and He created us specifically to be in a relationship with Him so He wants that a lot), sin cannot be in His presence. At all.
You see the tension here, right? He loves us with a bright, burning passion, but He hates our sin with an equally bright, burning passion. So, what is He to do? Well, He has to get the sin out of and away from us. In some way, the story of the Scriptures is the story of His efforts to remove sin from us so that we can be with Him.
His first attempt was the Flood. This was a pretty dramatic solution about which we can talk in detail another time. But, what the Flood demonstrated conclusively is that the problem of sin was an internal one in us, not merely something that a change in environment or a removal of nearly all external sources of temptation could address. Almost as soon as the Ark landed back on dry ground we were back to our sinful ways.
The next attempt was the Law given to Moses using the people of Israel as a kind of test case. The heart of this was to put some external restraints on our behavior along with some encouragements to not resist them. Over time these restraints would gradually train us to do the right thing on our own. This wound up being a rather spectacular failure as well.
Eventually the people to whom God gave that Law demonstrated their incorrigible willingness to ignore it and sin anyway, so He let them experience the full force of the encouragements to keep it. They were conquered and taken into exile for 70 years. On the other side of that, trying to rebuild their lives once again, is where we find Zechariah’s prophecy and this series of visions intended to offer the people some encouragement to continue down the path of rebuilding their lives, but to make sure they include their relationship with Him at the heart of such efforts.
Yesterday we started talking about this seventh and oddest of these eight visions. In it, Zechariah sees what was essentially a bushel basket floating toward Him. It contained or represented all the sin of the world. Or, it could represent an eye. We spent some time talking about why it even matters whether it’s one or the other.
The rest of the vision doesn’t get any less weird. The basket comes close and there is a woman inside named Wickedness. The reason it’s a woman is that the word “wickedness” is grammatically feminine in Hebrew. It’s not trying to say wickedness is somehow connected to women more so than men.
The angelic guide takes the lid off the basket long enough to show Zechariah what’s inside and then crams the lid back on. Then, two other women, probably symbolizing goodness and righteousness, fly up to them with stork-like wings, pick up the basket of wickedness, and fly it away. Zechariah specifically notes that they carry it in the sky between heaven and earth. That’s likely a symbolic reference to what they believed to be a realm in between the natural and supernatural world where angels operated.
Ultimately they carry the basket away to the land of Shinar. Given the context, that’s almost surely a reference to Babylon. But, it was also the location of the Tower of Babel. Either way, it’s a sinful place—just the kind of place for the world’s evil. Throughout the Scriptures, but particularly in the New Testament, Babylon is consistently representative of the center of opposition to God and His ways. Once in Shinar, the basket is placed on a stand—a place of honor—in a temple being built for it.
So then, what’s going on here?
God was in the process of bringing restoration to Israel. Like a master craftsman, He was making new what was once in shambles. A big part of that was putting back in place what was good. The city was being rebuilt. The walls would soon follow. The rebuilding of the temple was in process after having been abandoned for a season. The economy was slowly coming back. The people were beginning to get their minds around the kinds of behaviors that led to the exile in the first place and making strides to avoid them. They were slowly being restored.
But, bringing back what is good is only part of the process of restoration. In addition to that, there must be a removal of what isn’t good. For what isn’t good, if left alone, can begin to seep back into the old cracks that haven’t yet been patched and filled and there sow the seeds of future destruction all over again.
In this vision, Zechariah sees God actively removing the evil from Israel. Not just Israel, though, but of the whole world. It is collected and removed. And why would God do this? Because He hates sin and He loves us. His goal is to eliminate sin entirely from His world so that all who are willing (no one is forced into this) can be in the relationship with Him for which they were designed in the beginning.
What Zechariah saw only as a vision of the future, though, we know now as a present reality. God in Christ now has dealt permanently with all the sin and evil in the world. It was defeated and destroyed on the cross. It’s final elimination is still yet to come, but it no longer has any power over those who place themselves under His authority and protection by entrusting Him with their lives.
The God who created the world and everything in it desires a relationship with you. He’s removed every obstacle save your own pride which He will help you overcome if you will let Him. His love for you is perfect and completely without condition. You only need receive it and begin living the life that is truly life. What are you waiting for?