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Lowell Brueckner

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About Building a Temple in Babel


An expository study in chapter 5:5-11

I remind you again to read my comments with the Bible open and at hand, so you can read each verse as we come to it. This is how a Bible study functions and the main purpose is to perceive what the Author, the Holy Spirit, wants to impart to Zechariah for the people of his day, as well as for future generations. We can then consider how it may apply personally to our lives and the situation around us.

The seventh vision: The Ephah

When sin fills to the brink

In the previous vision, Zechariah lifts his eyes without prompting, but in this seventh vision, before he can react, the angel commands him to lift his eyes. The text states (v.5) that the angel “went out”, that is, that he without delay proceeded forward. In the last vision, the angel asked, “What do you see?”, but this time Zechariah asks, “What is it?”

Perhaps Zechariah cannot identify the object physically. It may be that it was not an object known to him and that he could not recognize its properties and so he needs a good explanation. I think that concerning some things, people would rather not “lift up their eyes” and they are afraid to ask about them. There are things that they would rather not know, but the person, who sees the things of God as vital to his life, is in a school where he continually is learning new things (v.6).  

This is his eighth question. I never tire of emphasizing the importance of asking questions. The Gospels mark a difference between those who only came near Jesus to experience His presence, hear His voice and observe His works, and those who looked for Him to be alone, so that He would explain the meaning of the things, of which He spoke. These two categories still exist today among Christians and the difference between them is a matter of trust. In what do they trust? The first category of people trusts in a certain atmosphere and in things that they experience. The second are only satisfied, when they know the truth.

An ephah was a Jewish measurement of about one bushel of dry material and the object that Zechariah saw, then, was a receptacle that could hold an ephah. The NAS translation of “appearance” in verse six is a good one. The literal Hebrew is “This is their eye in all the land” and is sometimes translated “iniquity”, but it means that what one sees with his eye, when he looks at this receptacle, is iniquity. Symbolically, it represents a great quantity of sins, the collective sins of a people in the land. That is the appearance or the impression that it leaves, something akin to the impression left by the people in Noah’s time. No good could be seen in them, only wickedness. The measure has come to be a full ephah and it is time that it must be dealt with.

Here we confront an interesting spiritual principle that God has established. It is something that every human being should fear, because God measures sin and when that measure comes to its fullness, He will act against it and judgment will fall. We can get a good idea, perhaps, from Genesis 15:16, when God speaks to Abram about the sin of the Amorites… “The iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” During the four generations that the Israelites are enslaved in Egypt, the ephah of the Amorites is filling. When it is completely full, then the Lord sends Israel to carry out judgment against them.

Daniel warns Belshazzar of the pride of his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, and the ephah that was measured against him was the hardness of his heart: “When his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away from him… yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven.”

God’s finger wrote against Belshazzar, “TEKEL:    You have been weighed on the scales and found deficient” (Dan.5:20, 22, 27). Because of the quantity of evidence that God placed before Belshazzar, he should have learned his lesson, but he did not. This is the same principle, expressed in a different form. I think you can understand it; Belshazzar’s ephah is full of deficiency! Or we might express it like this: When the ephah was filled with spiritual deficiency, caused by a pride, which conduced you to resist the truth that was placed before your eyes… “You, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this.”

The Jews in Jesus’ time came to a point of hardness that was never reached before in all their history. Jesus said to them, Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers… so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar” (Mt.23:32, 35). The ephah was filled with innocent blood.

The receptacle has a heavy, lead cover (v.7). Zechariah saw a woman, personifying sin, sitting in the ephah receptacle. She is the source that has produced all the sin that the ephah has taken in. Up to this point there had been a possibility of remedy, but now the woman, who is called Wickedness, has settled in and become comfortable. Her presence has affected everything, as a rotten apple among many (v.8). Previously, she had some liberty of movement and her head could protrude out of the ephah, but now she is thrown down inside and destined for her place of origin. The cover is heavy and once firmly put in its place, there is no escape.

When the Lord shuts the door, no one can open it. He measures the time, in which repentance must take place, and when that time ends, judgment falls. The Psalmist said, “It is time for the Lord to act, for they have broken Your law” (Ps.119:126). In this case, you see, time is the measurement against them. The situation was like this in the Thyatira church also: “I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel… I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation… and I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds” (Rev.2:20-23). An ephah can surely fill against a church, as it filled against Israel. I am afraid of some situations where, it seems to me, the ephah of God´s patience is reaching the brim and the roof is about to fall in. May everyone take care not to be under it when it falls!

Where is all this going to end?

The consequences come in the form of two women with wings. Their arrival is quicker than the velocity produced by their wings, because it is increased by a tailwind (wind always symbolizes spirits) and their mission will be like that of storks, migrating to a distant destination (v.9). The time has come and the punishment will be carried out under extreme pressure. The ephah is taken away from the place where it had settled and is rapidly carried through the air. The expression “between the earth and the heavens” indicates something that will take place in full public view.

Zechariah asks his ninth question (v.10). “Where are they taking the ephah?” He wants to know the conclusion, the end of this matter. This is something that we must always take into consideration. It does not matter how successful things seem to be at this present moment. Everyone may think that the ephah is very successful, because it is certainly full. Let’s get this lesson learned: Pragmatism is not a legitimate measure for judging any situation! The quantity and extension of a work proves absolutely nothing. The apostle said, “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 Jn.3:7-8), no matter what the results seem to be. These are days in which you can hear speakers in Christian circles with dirty mouths, speaking openly of sex, using foul language, questionable jokes, who talk about God without reverence in their teaching. In the fear of God, I don’t even want to give you an example, so as not to repeat blasphemy. God wants to teach us the conclusion of the matter and how it will be brought to its end. “Where are they taking the ephah?” asks Zechariah. That, my friend, is what is important!

The answer is that they are taking it to Shinar (v.11), originally Babel, which means confusion (Gen.11:2). God is not the God of confusion, disorder, or inconsistency. He is a firm Rock, in whom we can confide and His word is established forever in heaven. That which confuses, causes disorder and is inconsistent is carried to its source. Those who are involved with the ephah, will have perfect liberty to carry out their heart’s desire, because they will be loosed to found their own religion. The land of Shinar is the atmosphere of paganism.

The ephah people cannot be involved in the building of God’s temple that is being built in Jerusalem. They will be separated from God’s people and allowed to form an evil kind of worship. The full ephah will have plenty of capacity to perform it and all the finances necessary to build. It is to become part of the Babylon of the book of Revelation that has migrated, as the stork, to its origin. “To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar; and when it is prepared, she will be set there on her own pedestal.It will be a temple to please the ephah people and will be after their appearance (v.6). The woman, Wickedness, will be the great Babylonian harlot. Scofield comments on this vision: “Prophetically, the application to the Babylon of the Revelation is obvious. The professing Gentile church at that time condoning every iniquity of the rich, doctrinally a mere "confusion," as the name indicates, and corrupted to the core by commercialism, wealth, and luxury, falls under the judgment of God (Revelation 18).” 


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