The Prison of our Sin

Have you ever listened to a song without really paying attention to the lyrics?  Sad to say it happens to me all the time.  I hear a new song, enjoy it’s music and even begin trying to sing along with it, without grasping it’s full message.

“My Own Prison” a song by the group Creed, is one example of a song that I’ve listened to repeatedly, without ever really listening to  all the lyrics. Basically, the song is telling how we have made a prison for ourselves with the sins we have committed.  Our only hope is to look to the cross of Jesus Christ as the remedy for our situation.  If you would like to hear the song, while reading the lyrics, take a look here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IP4G8_alAT4

Did you know that the concept of building a prison with our own sins is a Biblical concept?  Let’s take a look at Zechariah 5: and see what the Lord has to say about making ourselves the prisoners of our own sins.

THE SCRIPTURES:

Zech 5:5-11 (KJV)

5) Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what [is] this that goeth forth.

6) And I said, What [is] it? And he said, This [is] an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This [is] their resemblance through all the earth.

7) And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this [is] a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.

8) And he said, This [is] wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof.

9) Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind [was] in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven.

10) Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah?

11) And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.

THE STUDY:

In our text, the prophet Zechariah is receiving a series of visions from an angel sent from the  Lord. These visions, when understood as as a whole, are showing Zechariah the sinful condition of the nation of Judah (the southern tribes of Israel) and their impending judgment.   (see Zechariah 1:1-6 for more details about the content and purpose of this series of visions)

The vision found in Zechariah 5:5-11, is teaching Zechariah two basic truths about the sinfulness of Judah:

First of all, it shows that Judah’s condition is of their own choosing, being the result of the sins that they have willfully committed.

Secondly, it is explaining that Judah’s sin will result in punishment at the hands of Almighty God.

I. The Introduction to the Vision

5) Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what [is] this that goeth forth.

This verse separates the vision of the flying roll (vs 1-4) from the vision we will be looking at in verses 5-11.  Along with this being a point of separation, these verses also help us to understand the origin of the vision we are looking at.  Clearly, this vision is being presented to Zechariah by an angel.

Who is this angel?  We are told more about him in Zechariah 1:12-14.  Here, the angel is described as “The Angel of the Lord” (12) clearly declaring he is sent from the Lord.  Notice that the angel is in communication with the Lord, delivering the words of the Lord to the prophet Zechariah (vs 13-14).

As the angel instructs Zechariah to “lift up now thine eyes” and “see what is this that goeth forth” , we can clearly see that it is the Lord’s desire for Zechariah to place his attention on this next vision.  Why?  It will be filled with truths about the subject at hand… the sinfulness of the nation of Judah and it’s results….

II. The Prison of Our Sinfulness

6) And I said, What [is] it? And he said, This [is] an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This [is] their resemblance through all the earth.

7) And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this [is] a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.

8) And he said, This [is] wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof.

The vision opens with an ephah.  This was a measuring basket used by ancient Judah.  It is believed that this basket was large enough to hold between one and three bushels of grain (depending on which historical source you use).

Apparently, there is a large piece of lead (about 125 pounds) covering the mouth of this ephah basket.  As the angel lifts up the piece of lead, Zechariah looks inside the basket and sees a woman sitting in the middle of the basket.

The angel reaches down pulls up the woman out of the basket and says “This is wickedness” and then casts the woman back into the basket.  Then the angel places the lid of lead upon the basket’s mouth.

To properly understand this vision we have to remember the basic message of this series of visions… the sins of Judah and it’s affects upon the nation.

Judah, in her current condition of Zechariah’s day, was filled with sin and rebellion.  As the angel lifts up the woman, he is displaying Judah, and her sins for Zechariah to see.  He then casts her back into the “prison”  that is made up of the ephah basket covered by the lead plate.    This is illustrating the results of the sin of Judah…. they were encased and imprisoned within the powerful grasp of sin.  Their sin had become their prison.

Please keep in mind, the ephah was used almost exclusively to measure grain.  If this is the case, perhaps this ephah also had grain within it.  If this is so, the picture even becomes clearer.  In Zephaniah 1:12 sinful Judah is spoken of …

12) And it shall come to pass at that time, [that] I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.

Being settled on their lees, is describing Judah’s contentment in their sinful condition (sitting upon their sins), not desiring to change their ways and not expecting judgment from God.

This woman, sitting upon the grain of her sin, is reminiscent of this same attitude of Judah in the days of Zechariah.  They were sinning… they knew they were sinning… and they no longer cared.  They had no concept of the judgment of God that would be swiftly coming upon them.

For a nation, or an individual, the affects of our sin nature, linked with the commission of sin is much like constructing a prison that slowly encases, and then holds and restrains for the judgment of God.  It is as if sin against God places us in a “holding cell” awaiting our final judgment and punishment from the Lord.

III.  The Judgment of God

9) Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind [was] in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven.

10) Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah?

11) And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.

Zechariah now turns his attention from the basket to two other servants of God… the two winged women.  What do these women do?  They pick up the ephah (which contains the woman and is covered with the lead plate) and lift it up into the sky.

Why do they remove the basket of sin from the earth?  To purify the Israelite land so that God can once again be honored and worshiped throughout the land.

What does all of this mean?  The two women are shown as servants of God, doing the bidding of God, by purifying the land of its sin.  It is really important to note that women are pictured as the servants of God.

In case anyone is offended by saying that, symbolically, a woman is used to represent a sinful Israel, it is important to note that the servants of God are pictured by women as well.  There is no gender bias with the Lord.  Just as women sin, so also they can be great servants of God.

Why does the Lord describe Israel as a sinful or adulterous woman?  It is simply to emphasize their sinfulness as an unfaithful nation who has rejected the God after pledging their faithfulness, love and support.  They were like an unfaithful wife in rebellion against their husband and the marriage vows they had taken.

What about the women’s stork wings?

1. In Jeremiah 8:7 – the stork’s wisdom is being emphasized, this helps us to understand that the judgments these women are bringing upon Israel is an act of Divine wisdom… The Lord always does what is wise and right when He deals with sinful nations and men.

2. In Psalms 104:17 – the stork is used to illustrate how the Lord meets the needs of His creation.   The sinfulness of the nation of Judah was placing the nation as a whole into a great spiritual poverty.  When the Lord removed the rebellious inhabitants of Judah from their land, He would be meeting their needs, by allowing them to be blessed once again.

3. In Leviticus 11:19 and Deuteronomy 14:18 – The stork is included in a list of animals that the Lord commanded Israel to not eat.  This helps bring to our mind that the punishments of God  should be avoided.  By a nation submitting to their Almighty God, they will be avoiding the types of judgment these women are bringing to pass.

4. In Isaiah 40:31 – wings and flight are used as pictures of strength and deliverance by God. These judgments are the results of God’s sovereign strength as He was delivering His nation from the bonds of sin.

Because of Judah’s lax attitude about their sin, they would be punished.  This punishment would involve their removal from the land.

This vision would be historically fulfilled when the sinful nation of Israel would be overtaken by the invading Greek and, later, Roman empires.  Following their captivity, there would be the various dispersions of the Jews from Israel during the times of the Book of Acts.  This led to a proclamation of the gospel throughout the world, and the eventual worship of Jehovah among the Gentiles. This is partially the meaning of the reference to worship of the Lord taking place in the land of Shinar, a Gentile land.

However, this prophecy is also a reflection of the fact that God will eventually do away with ALL sin and rebellion in this world and will replace it with a world-wide worship of Him.  This is why the land of Shinar is mentioned specifically.

Shinar is located in the nation of Babylon, the seat of the false religions of this world.    Someday, as the Lord purifies the world of her sin, He will restore true world-wide worship even in the very seat of idol worship, Babylon (or “Shinar”). In the future yet to come, during the Great tribulation and the Battle of Armageddon, the Lord will eliminate sin from the world and establish a world-wide worship of Himself.

These two prophetic references are linked together with the symbolism of “the woman”.

In the futuristic prophetical writings of Revelation, the followers of the Lord (spiritual Israel) are pictured as a woman (Rev 12:) while the sinful powers of the world is pictured as a harlot  (Rev 17:). Also, we find physical historic Israel described as a feminine character (an unfaithful wife)  throughout prophetic Scripture. (Isa 54:5-7, Hosea 2:19-20 etc).

The images of the sinful woman being judged brings the truths about God’s past judgment of the physical nation of Israel (Judah) together with the future worldwide judgment of the sinful worldwide “Harlot” of Rev 17:.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

Based upon the outward events taking place in our nation, it is very clear to me that our nation is simply “sitting on death row” awaiting it’s execution at the hands of a sovereign, holy God.  How did our nation get in the condition it is in?  By us allowing sin to gradually enter into our family and personal lives.  Then, as we became hardened in our sin, our nation began to slowly decline into sin as well.  I truly believe that what we see taking place in our nation is only a reflection and result of the sin that has entered our personal and family lives.

We, as Americans,  are building a prison of sin for ourselves and our nation.   As time progresses, we will continue to see the results of our sin being manifested by acts of judgment by Almighty God.  If we fail to see the handwriting on the wall, and we continue in our sin, I believe we will cause God to take us “out of the picture” entirely.   And we will become irrelevant as a nation.  We are already beginning to see this take place.

http://settledinheaven.wordpress.com

About Rob Barkman

A retired pastor, Bible teacher and author of 20 years, he is currently ministering through Settled In Heaven Ministries. SIH Ministries is an on-line Bible teaching ministry that was founded by Bro Barkman in 2010. Settled In Heaven’s mission is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by fulfilling two different roles... rendering encouragement and Biblical knowledge to the saints in an effort to enhance their service to Christ; and proclaiming the gospel message to those who are in need of salvation, explaining to them their urgent need to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
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4 Responses to The Prison of our Sin

  1. ptl2010 says:

    I really do not like this blog because it highlights a reality that grieves God I am sure. However I am so glad Pastor Rob has been inspired to write it for all the people in America and around the world, who will hear and make a difference. Sometimes we have to hear what we do not like, to be awakened from slumber which the evil one has lulled us into. Thank you Pastor Rob as you have joined the ranks of those who have been awakened and is blowing the whistle on the degradation that is increasing. O for more courageous people who will step out to speak against and work against the deceiving spirit of this age which is anti-God.

    • Rob Barkman says:

      Evelyn, thank you so much for the kind words. I believe that an increasing number of Christians are beginning to come to a realization about the condition and path the nations of the world are currently walking. In general we see a decline in the Godliness of our leaders and the decisions that they make…. all the while we see the effects of the degrading of the family and church units. We are in a very dangerous and desperate time. By God’s grace let us pray that He might send the needed national revival or else as He sees fit allow things to continue which will, in my way of thinking, be another proof of His very soon coming. May His will be done as we increase our efforts to take the truth to the world through Christian Blessings and our own personal ministries. Lord bless you.

  2. I have been trying to remember a quote. I think it might have been by an early US President, but it said something like the family unit was the basis of the strength of the nation. When governments devalued the family unit, the nation went downhill.

    I did find one quote by Mr Anon: “Family life was and always will be the foundation of any civilization. Destroy the family and you destroy the country.”

    I think satan has heard that and is setting out to destroy the family unit . . . and our governments have taken the bait.

    We are one day closer!

    • Rob Barkman says:

      Angela,

      In my way of thinking, the importance of the family unit cannot be overestimated. All of the leaders of our nation and churches proceed from this family unit. We all can see what are the results of ungodly leadership… most of which exists because of a breakdown of the family and the lack of spiritual training in the family. Only His grace, and His grace alone, can change the course of the nations of the world. Thank you for the comments. Lord bless.

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