“Return to me, . . . and I will return to you.”—ZECHARIAH 1:3.
1-3. (a) When Zechariah started to prophesy, what was the situation of Jehovah’s people? (b) Why did Jehovah ask his people to return to him?
A FLYING scroll, a woman inside a container, and two women soaring in the wind with wings like those of storks. These are some of the exciting visions that Zechariah saw. (Zechariah 5:1, 7-9) Why did Jehovah give these amazing visions to his prophet? What was the situation of the Israelites at that time? And how can we benefit from these visions today?
2 It was the year 537 before Christ, and Jehovah’s people were very joyful. They had been captive in Babylon for 70 long years, but now they were free! They were excited to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and worship Jehovah there. One year later, the Israelites laid the foundation of the temple. The people were very happy, and they were “shouting so loudly that the sound was heard from a great distance.” (Ezra 3:10-13) But opposition to the building work got stronger and stronger. The Israelites became so discouraged that they stopped building the temple. Instead, they focused on building their own homes and cultivating their fields. Sixteen years later, Jehovah’s temple was still not finished. God’s people needed a reminder to return to Jehovah and to stop thinking about themselves. Jehovah wanted them to worship him with zeal and courage.
Jehovah accepts our worship only if we give him our best
3 So in the year 520, Jehovah sent his prophet Zechariah to help the people remember why He had freed them from Babylon. It is interesting that Zechariah’s name means “Jehovah Has Remembered.” Even though the Israelites had forgotten what Jehovah had done for them, God still remembered them. (Read Zechariah 1:3, 4.) Jehovah promised to help them restore pure worship. But he also warned them that he would accept their worship only if they gave him their best. Let us examine Zechariah’s sixth and seventh visions. We will learn how Jehovah motivated the Israelites and how these two visions can help us today.
GOD’S JUDGMENT AGAINST THOSE WHO STEAL
4. What did Zechariah see in his sixth vision? Why did the scroll have writing on both sides? (See opening picture 1.)
4 Chapter 5 of Zechariah begins with an unusual vision. (Read Zechariah 5:1, 2.) Zechariah saw a scroll flying through the air. This scroll was almost 9 meters (30 feet) long and 4.5 meters (15 feet) wide. The scroll was open, and a message was written on it. (Zechariah 5:3) It was a serious message of judgment. In ancient times, people usually wrote on only one side of a scroll. But this message was so important that both sides of the scroll were written on.
5, 6. How does Jehovah feel about any kind of stealing?
5 Read Zechariah 5:3, 4. All humans are responsible to God for their actions. This is especially true for Jehovah’s people, because they are called by his name. They love him and know that stealing brings shame on his name. (Proverbs 30:8, 9) Some people may think that it is not wrong to steal if they have a good reason. But no matter how good the reason seems, a person who steals shows that his greedy desire is more important to him than Jehovah, His name, and His law.
6 Did you notice that Zechariah 5:3, 4 says that the curse would “enter into the house of the thief” and that it would “remain inside that house and consume it”? So Jehovah can reveal and judge any wrongdoing among his people. Even if a person who steals could hide what he is doing from police, employers, elders, or parents, he cannot hide it from Jehovah. God will make sure that any kind of stealing will be revealed. (Hebrews 4:13) We truly enjoy being with people who do their best to be honest “in all things”!—Hebrews 13:18.
7. How can we avoid the curse of the flying scroll?
7 Any kind of stealing offends Jehovah. It is an honor for us to know and obey Jehovah’s principles regarding right and wrong and to live in a way that does not bring shame on his name. By doing this we will avoid Jehovah’s judgment against people who do not obey him.
KEEP YOUR WORD “DAY AFTER DAY”
8-10. (a) What is an oath? (b) What oath did King Zedekiah break?
8 Next, the flying scroll delivered a warning message to those who make “a false oath” in God’s name. (Zechariah 5:4) An oath is a statement that confirms that something is true or a serious promise to do or not to do a certain thing.
9 To make an oath in the name of Jehovah is a very serious matter. We learn this from what happened to Zedekiah, the last king to rule in Jerusalem. Zedekiah made an oath in Jehovah’s name that he would submit to the king of Babylon. But Zedekiah did not keep his promise. For this reason, Jehovah said that Zedekiah would “die in Babylon, in the place where the king who made him king lives, the one whose oath he despised and whose covenant he broke.”—Ezekiel 17:16.
10 King Zedekiah had made his oath in God’s name, and Jehovah expected him to keep it. (2 Chronicles 36:13) But Zedekiah broke his promise and asked Egypt to help him break free from Babylon. Still, Egypt could not help him.—Ezekiel 17:11-15, 17, 18.
11, 12. (a) What is the most important promise we will ever make? (b) How should our dedication affect our daily life?
11 From what happened to Zedekiah, we learn that Jehovah listens to the promises we make. To please him, we must keep our promises. (Psalm 76:11) The most important promise we can make is our dedication to Jehovah. When we dedicate ourselves to him, we promise that we will serve him no matter what happens in our life.
12 How can we keep our promise to Jehovah? “Day after day” we have both large and small tests. We show how strong our relationship with Jehovah is by the way we handle these tests. (Psalm 61:8) For example, what will you do if someone at work or at school starts to flirt with you? Will you reject the attention and show that you want to obey Jehovah? (Proverbs 23:26) Or what if you are the only one in your family who worships Jehovah? Do you ask Jehovah to help you to continue to behave in a Christian way? No matter what situation you are in, do you thank Jehovah every day for his love and guidance? Are you making time to read the Bible daily? In a way, we promised to do these things when we dedicated our life to Jehovah. When we obey him and give him our best, we show Jehovah that we love him and belong to him. Our worship is a way of life. And because we are faithful to Jehovah, he promises us a wonderful future.—Deuteronomy 10:12, 13.
By his own example, Jehovah teaches us that we should keep our promises
13. What can we learn from Zechariah’s sixth vision?
13 The sixth vision of Zechariah helps us to understand that if we love Jehovah, we will not steal or break our promises. We also learn that even though the Israelites made many mistakes, Jehovah kept his promise and did not abandon his people. He understood that they were in a very difficult situation with enemies all around them. By his own example, Jehovah teaches us that we should keep our promises. And we can be sure that he will help us to do so. One way Jehovah helps us is by giving us a hope for the future. Soon, he will end all wickedness on the earth. We can read about this hope in Zechariah’s next vision.
JEHOVAH REMOVES THE WICKED
14, 15. (a) What did Zechariah see in his seventh vision? (See opening picture 2.) (b) Who was the woman inside the container? Why did the angel seal the container?
14 After Zechariah saw the flying scroll, an angel told him: “Look up.” Zechariah then saw a container called an “ephah.” (Read Zechariah 5:5-8.) The container had a round lid made of lead. When the container was opened, Zechariah saw “a woman sitting inside.” The angel explained to Zechariah that the woman inside the container was “Wickedness.” Imagine Zechariah’s horror as he saw the woman try to get out! But the angel quickly threw the woman back inside and sealed the container with its heavy lid. What does this mean?
15 This vision gives us confidence that Jehovah will not allow any kind of wickedness among his people. If Jehovah sees something bad, he will act quickly to remove it. (1 Corinthians 5:13) The angel showed this when he immediately put the heavy lid over the container.
16. (a) What happened to the container? (See opening picture 3.) (b) Where did the women with wings take the container?
16 Next, Zechariah saw two women who had strong wings like storks’ wings. (Read Zechariah 5:9-11.) These women were completely different from the wicked woman in the container. With their powerful wings, they lifted up the container with “Wickedness” inside and flew away. Where did they take her? They took the container to “the land of Shinar,” which was Babylon. Why would they take her there?
17, 18. (a) Why was Babylon the “proper place” for “Wickedness”? (b) What are you determined to do?
17 The Israelites who lived in Zechariah’s day would have understood why Babylon would be the right place to take “Wickedness.” They knew that it was a wicked city full of immorality and false worship. Zechariah and other Jews who had lived there had tried hard every day to resist its pagan influence. So this vision guaranteed that Jehovah would keep his worship clean.
18 The vision also reminded the Jews that they too had a responsibility to keep their worship pure. Wickedness cannot and will not be allowed among God’s people. Today, Jehovah has brought us into his clean organization, where we feel his love and protection. Each of us has a responsibility to help keep it clean. Wickedness must not exist among Jehovah’s people.
CLEAN PEOPLE HONOR JEHOVAH
19. What do Zechariah’s exciting visions mean for us today?
19 Zechariah’s sixth and seventh visions are a serious warning to those who do what is bad. Jehovah will not allow wickedness to continue. As his servants, we must hate wickedness. These visions also reassure us that if we work to please our loving Father, he will not curse us but will protect and bless us. Even though it may be difficult to remain clean in this wicked world, with Jehovah’s help we can succeed! But how can we be sure that true worship will survive? And as we get closer to the great tribulation, how do we know that Jehovah will protect his organization? We will discuss these questions in the next article.