6. What did the interpreting angel explain the flying scroll to mean?
6 What did the interpreting angel say? “Then he said to me: ‘This is the curse that is going forth over the surface of all the earth, because everyone that is stealing, according to it on this side, has gone free of punishment; and everyone making a sworn oath, according to it on that side, has gone free of punishment.’”—Zechariah 5:3.
7, 8. What questions arise as regards the thief and the swearer of a false oath in Jehovah’s name, and what does Jehovah say that the curse will do?
7 What, then, is to happen to these evildoers who have thus far got off scot-free? According to what is written on the one side of the scroll, what curse is to be executed upon the hitherto-unpunished stealer? And according to what is written on the other side of the scroll, what curse is to be executed upon the guilty maker of a sworn oath? Even we today are interested in knowing, because all the earth at present abounds with stealers and with persons who do not live up to their sworn oath.
10. To what land did this matter apply, and why did this fact make the stealing and the false swearing all the more serious?
10 We must bear in mind that this applied to the land occupied by the remnant of once exiled Jews who had been liberated from Babylon and had returned to the land of Judah for the purpose of rebuilding Jehovah’s temple at Jerusalem. That made matters all the more serious. Under the Ten Commandments, as given through the prophet Moses, those natural, circumcised Jews were under divine command not to steal, not to swear falsely or bear false witness. Hence, in stealing from God’s chosen people, the thief was really stealing from Jehovah. In swearing falsely in Jehovah’s holy name, the false swearer was lying, not only to the one for whom the sworn oath was to be an assurance or guarantee, but also to Jehovah. It was a misuse of His name, the use of His name in a worthless way. (Exodus 20:7, 15, 16) Although the thieves and false swearers escaped for a time punishment at the hands of those who should enforce God’s law, yet His curse would apply to those violators and would in due time take effect upon them.
KINDS OF THIEVERY
11. Did hunger make thievery excusable, or what consequences did such stealing bring according to Solomon and proverbialist Agur?
11 No matter what the motive for stealing might be and how excusable the theft might seem to be under the circumstances, yet it was a sin and deserved to be punished according of God’s law. Said the inspired wise King Solomon: “People do not despise a thief just because he commits thievery to fill his soul when he is hungry. But, when found, he will make it good with seven times as much; all the valuables of his house he will give.” (Proverbs 6:30, 31) The proverbialist Agur the son of Jakeh did not desire to get into circumstances where he felt obliged to steal, for he saw that his God was involved or was affected. Hence he prayed to God: “Untruth and the lying word put far away from me. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Let me devour the food prescribed for me, that I may not become satisfied and I actually deny you and say: ‘Who is Jehovah?’ and that I may not come to poverty and I actually steal and assail the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:1, 8, 9) How would he by thievery be assailing the name of his God?
12. (a) How, in the light of the Ten Commandments, is the stealing, even for hunger’s sake, an assailing of God’s name? (b) What does the apostle Paul say on this?
12 Because thievery is an expression of idolatry. The thief idolizes himself or the thing he steals. He covets that to which he has no right but which belongs to another. To escape punishment for thievery, he takes the coveted thing when the owner or enforcers of the law are not watching. Since the commandment against thievery was given over God’s name Jehovah, the thieving person is disregarding God’s name and assailing it as being of no force or importance. Wrote the Christian apostle Paul to Christian heirs of God’s heavenly kingdom: “No fornicator or unclean person or greedy person—which means being an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and of God.” (Ephesians 5:5) He also wrote: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5) Paul may have had in mind the prophecy of Zechariah when he wrote: “Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work, that he may have something to distribute to someone in need.”—Ephesians 4:28, 25.
13. (a) How does the “curse” affect the dedicated, baptized Christian who takes up stealing? (b) What stealing is more serious than stealing some creature’s material property?
13 If a dedicated, baptized Christian renews any stealing that he did before his conversion or he takes up stealing, he is assailing the name of his God. Since he as a stealer cannot inherit God’s Messianic kingdom, he comes under the divine curse. This will mean his destruction, for if he fails to gain entrance into the kingdom to which he is called, there is nothing else left for him. To be a thief, we do not necessarily need to steal material things from another person. Of more serious consequence is one’s stealing the words of God. God is against such stealing.
14. What does Jehovah say, in Jeremiah 23:30-32, about those who steal His words?
14 “‘Therefore here I am against the prophets,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘the ones who are stealing away my words, each one from his companion.’ ‘Here I am against the prophets,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘the ones who are employing their tongue that they may utter forth, “An utterance!”’ ‘Here I am against the prophets of false dreams,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘who relate them and cause my people to wander about because of their falsehoods and because of their boasting.’ ‘But I myself did not send them or command them. So they will by no means benefit this people,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Jeremiah 23:30-32.
15. (a) What must be said as to whether we are stealing our companion’s words when we make Bible quotations to others? (b) How did the false prophets in Jeremiah’s days steal God’s words from their companion?
15 Stealing Jehovah’s words from one’s companion is a serious matter. How do we do this? Do we steal Jehovah’s words from the prophet when we quote the words of the one whom He inspired to say them? No, for we give due credit to the inspired prophet whose words we are quoting for our support or for proof of a teaching. We refer people to the Bible book, chapter and verse from which we quote. We do not do like the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day. These prophets would take the prophecy of the man whom Jehovah inspired to utter the prophecy and then would palm this prophecy off as being their own. And, of course, when they enlarged upon this prophecy that they had stolen, they would not have the divine guidance in doing so. This would result in their not explaining it correctly or in making unauthorized additions of their own or adulterating, distorting, watering down the prophecy. In this way they would use the purloined prophecy to their own selfish ends.
16. How did those who pretended to be inspired prophets or who related mere dreams steal God’s name?
16 They put on an appearance of being a prophet by saying, as if under inspiration: “An utterance!” Then they really steal the name of Jehovah by attaching it to their own “utterance” to which it does not belong. They dream up false dreams for the future so as to influence the people against Jehovah’s true mouthpieces. Because of their false dreams and their boasting regarding the future, they cause the people to go astray religiously and spiritually and leave them unprepared for the real things to come. Jehovah did not send them or command them, for which reason they have no right to steal God’s name from its rightful place and use it for their deceptive purposes. Such thieves benefit no one.
17. What did Jehovah forewarn was approaching, and how were the prophets that did not stand in His intimate group responsible for the people’s conduct?
17 “For who has stood in the intimate group of Jehovah that he might see and hear his word? Who has given attention to his word that he might hear it? Look! The windstorm of Jehovah, rage itself, will certainly go forth, even a whirling tempest. Upon the head of the wicked ones it will whirl itself. The anger of Jehovah will not turn back until he will have carried out and until he will have made the ideas of his heart come true. In the final part of the days you people will give your consideration to it with understanding. I did not send the prophets, yet they themselves ran. I did not speak to them, yet they themselves prophesied. But if they had stood in my intimate group, then they would have made my people hear my own words, and they would have caused them to turn back from their bad way and from the badness of their dealings.”—Jeremiah 23:18-22.
18. How have Christendom’s clergymen done what Revelation 22:19 warns against, and how have they stolen the words of their companion?
18 The foregoing corresponds with what is said to dedicated, baptized Christians in the last book of the Bible: “If anyone takes anything away from the words of the scroll of this prophecy, God will take his portion away from the trees of life and out of the holy city, things which are written about in this scroll.” (Revelation 22:19) In teaching that the book of Revelation has no prophetic value or that the Bible is full of myths and legends and impossibilities, the clergy of Christendom have certainly taken away much from God’s Word, and so are withholding it from the unsuspecting people. How often during political campaigns and in wartime the clergy of Christendom have appropriated to their own selfish use a text from the Bible and employed it as a pretext to talk to their congregations about worldly politics, social reform schemes and war propaganda! Is that not stealing Jehovah’s word from one’s companion?
19. How can we, like the apostle Paul, avoid God’s curse for stealing God’s words from those needing them?
19 In contrast with stealing away any of the Word of God from those who deserve to hear it, we should imitate the example of the apostle Paul who said: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. But I thoroughly bore witness both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus. Hence I call you to witness this very day that I am clean from the blood of all men, for I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:19-21, 26, 27) Like Paul, we do not want to be cursed for spiritual stealing.
MAKING A SWORN OATH IN GOD’S NAME FALSELY
20. The prophet Zechariah and his fellow Jews could well remember what outstanding case of swearing falsely by God’s name in Judah?
20 Zechariah and the rest of the restored Jews of his day could well remember an outstanding case in history that showed how strongly God felt about one’s swearing falsely with an oath in His name. This case was that of their last king on the throne of Jerusalem, namely, that of King Zedekiah the son of Josiah. He died blind in a prison in Babylon before the faithful Jewish remnant were liberated from Babylonian exile. Why? The record at 2 Chronicles 36:12, 13 explains why, saying: “He continued to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah his God. He did not humble himself on account of Jeremiah the prophet at the order of Jehovah. And even against King Nebuchadnezzar he rebelled, who had made him swear by God; and he kept stiffening his neck and hardening his heart so as not to return to Jehovah the God of Israel.”
21. According to Ezekiel 17:16-20, what decision did Jehovah make concerning unfaithful King Zedekiah?
21 With regard to the oath with which King Zedekiah swore to King Nebuchadnezzar in the name of Jehovah, Ezekiel 17:16-20 sets forth this decision of Jehovah:
“‘As I am alive,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘in the place of the king [Nebuchadnezzar] who put in as king the one that despised his oath and that broke his covenant, with him in the midst of Babylon he will die. . . . And he has despised an oath in breaking a covenant, and, look! he had given his hand and has done even all these things. He will not make his escape.’ ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “As I am alive, surely my oath that he has despised and my covenant that he has broken—I will even bring it upon his head. And I will spread over him my net, and he will certainly be caught in my hunting net; and I will bring him to Babylon and put myself on judgment with him there respecting his unfaithfulness with which he acted against me.”’”
22. How did King Zedekiah forswear himself, and against whose counsel?
22 Since King Zedekiah had sworn with an oath to King Nebuchadnezzar in the name of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, he owed it to God to live up to his oath and carry out his covenant to be a vassal king to the king of Babylon. In disregard of the inspired counsel of the prophet Jeremiah, he perjured himself, forswore himself and rebelled and turned to Pharaoh of Egypt for military help.—Ezekiel 17:11-15, 17; Isaiah 31:1-3.
23. Similar to Zedekiah, how have the nations of Christendom and their clergy gone for help and broken their covenant?
23 Similar to King Zedekiah, who was in the Law covenant with God through the mediator Moses, the nations of Christendom have gone down to symbolic Egypt for help, yes, to the world with its military equipment. The religious clergymen of Christendom have gone along with their respective nations and have blessed and prayed for their armies, their military weapons and their war procedures. In this manner the nations of Christendom and their clergy, who claim to be in the new covenant with God through Christ as mediator, have broken their covenant with God. The religious clergy have violated the neutrality toward world conflicts that is binding on all Christians.
24. (a) How have Christendom’s clergymen acted toward vows or oaths taken when they were ordained as ministers? (b) How will they fare when God executes the flying scroll “curse” in the coming “great tribulation”?
24 Whatever vows or sworn oaths the sectarian clergy of Christendom have made to God when being ordained to the ministry of their respective religious denominations, they have broken. They have done so by their worldly course, well knowing that “the friendship with the world is enmity with God” and that “whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) What about the “curse” that was represented by the unusually large flying scroll that was going forth over all the surface of the earth? Will it enter into the houses of those spiritual or religious thieves? Will it exterminate them and all their religious houses in the time of God’s executing that curse? Without fail, yes! Those clergymen and their professed Christian nations are “false to agreements” respecting God, although they should know full well “the righteous decree of God, that those practicing such things are deserving of death.” (Romans 1:31, 32) Woe to them in the coming “great tribulation” when that curse on the “flying scroll” is executed by God.—Matthew 24:21, 22.
25, 26. (a) Where finally must an end be put to those kinds of wickedness specified on the flying scroll? (b) By what course of action will dedicated, baptized Christians escape the “curse” of the flying scroll?
25 As in the vision to Zechariah the curse was to put an end to thievery and false swearing in Jehovah’s name throughout the land of His people, so an end must be put to such things in all the earth. Especially so now in the spiritual estate of Jehovah’s restored remnant of spiritual Israel. Such kinds of wickedness are no longer to be permitted, tolerated, and allowed to go unpunished in this earth, which belongs to its Creator, the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. To escape the coming extermination all fully dedicated, baptized Christians are under Scriptural obligation to be “no part of this world,” to stick inseparably to theocratic neutrality toward the selfish disputes of this world. Because the restored remnant of spiritual Israelites do this, there is fulfilled to them what is foretold in Revelation 22:3-5:
26 “And no more will there be any curse. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his slaves will render him sacred service; and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Also, night will be no more, and they have no need of lamplight nor do they have sunlight, because Jehovah God will shed light upon them, and they will rule as kings forever and ever.”