A Materialistic Community
Zechariah 5:5-11
Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said to me, Lift up now your eyes, and see what is this that goes forth.…

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. And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth, etc. Here is another (the seventh) vision in the wonderful series of visions which the prophet had that night. This is one of the strangest of the whole, one, perhaps, admitting of no certain interpretation - a "woman in the ephah." We know what an "ephah" was. It was the greatest measure of capacity which the Hebrews had for dry goods, and was about the size of a cubic foot. It contained about an English bushel. The woman is generally regarded, and with probable accuracy used, as the symbol of a Jewish community - a community that had become by this time most mercenary. Mammon was their god. The interpreting angel 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." "Because it was wickedness or abhorrent worldliness that this woman symbolized, the angel threw her down in the midst of the ephah, and threw the weight of lead on the mouth of it" (Henderson). Utter mercenariness is an abhorrent object to an angel's eye. The prophet still looks, and what does he see? "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." The meaning of this new scene may easily be discovered. The ephah, with the woman in it, is carried away between earth and heaven, i.e. through the air. Women carry it, because there is a woman inside; and two women, because two persons are required to carry so large and heavy a measure, that they lay hold of it on both sides (תִּשֶּׂנָה with the א dropped; cf. Gesenius, 74, 3, A. 4). These women have wings, because it passes through the air; and a stork's wings, because these birds have broad pinions, and not because the stork is a bird of passage or an unclean bird. "The wings are filled with wind, that they may be able to carry their burden with greater velocity through the air. The women denote the instruments or powers employed by God to carry away the sinners out of his congregation, without any special allusion to this or the other historical nation. This is all that we have to seek in these features, which only serve to give distinctness to the picture" (Keil and Delitzsch). "Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah. 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." There is no necessity for regarding Shinar here as designating any particular geographical spot, such as the laud which Nimrod founded. The idea may be that this utter worldliness bears men away forever from the Divine scenes of life. The most practical use I can turn this mysterious passage to is to employ it to illustrate the condition of a truly materialistic community.

I. SUCH A COMMUNITY IS ENCASED BY THE MATERIAL. This woman, the emblem of the worldly Jews, was not only "in the midst of the ephah," but was closely confined there. "He cast the weight of the lead upon the mouth thereof." To an utterly worldly man matter is everything. He is utterly shut out from the spiritual; there is no glimpse of it, no interest in it. Like the woman in the ephah, he is encompassed by that which shuts him in. The bright heavens and the green fields of the spiritual world are over and around him, but they are nothing to him. He is in the ephah.

1. Your secular scientist is in the ephah. He sees nothing but matter, believes in nothing but matter.

2. Your sensuous religionist is in this ephah. He judges after the flesh. He lives in the horrors of Sinai, in the tragedies of Calvary; his talk is of blood, and fire, and crowns, and white robes, etc. The spiritual is shut out from him, or rather he is shut out from it.

3. Your man of the world is in this ephah. All his ideas of wealth, dignity, pleasure, are material. He judges the worth of a man by his purse, the dignity of a man by his pageantries, the pleasures of a man by his luxuries. Verily a sad condition this for humanity. For a soul that was made to realize the invisible, to mingle with the spiritual, to revel in the infinite, to be shut up like this woman in the ephah of materialism, may well strike us with shame and alarm.

II. SUCH A COMMUNITY IS BEING DISINHERITED BY THE MATERIAL. This woman in the ephah, emblem of the worldly Hebrew, is borne away from Palestine, her own land, into a foreign region; borne away by two women who had "wings like a stork, and whose wings were full of wind." Materialism disinherits man. His true inheritance as a spiritual, existent is "incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away." But materalism carries him away from it - away to the distant and the gross.

1. The process was rapid. No bird so fleet with wing and foot as the stork, and with this fleetness this woman in the ephah was borne. How rapidly do animalism and worldliness bear away the spirit of man from the realm of spiritual realities, from a love of the true and the beautiful!

2. The process was final. "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." "To be carnally minded is death." "He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption." Materialism bears the soul away into the "bondage of corruption." Well might the apostle say, "Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies to the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things" (Philippians 3:19). "As you love your soul," says Mason, "beware of the world; it hath slain its thousands and ten thousands. What ruined Lot's wife? The world. What ruined Achan? The world. What ruined Haman? The world. What ruined Judas? The world. What ruined Simon Magus? The world. What ruined Demas? The world. And, 'What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?'" - D.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Then the angel who talked with me came forward, and said to me, "Lift up now your eyes, and see what is this that is appearing."

A Materialistic Community
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