By the time you get to chapter 5 of Zechariah, you have at least half a dozen visions, and almost all of them are more than a little odd. But arguably, the strangest of all may start here, where we see something is “going out.” We are told it is a basket, and that in the basket is the “iniquity of the land,” which sounds like great news. Then we find out there is a woman in the basket—and she is wickedness personified.
“Then the angel who talked with me came forward and said to me,
‘Lift your eyes and see what this is that is going out.’ And I said, ‘What is it?’
He said, ‘This is the basket that is going out.’ And he said,
‘This is their iniquity in all the land’” (Zechariah 5:5–6, ESV).
Speaking of odd, the first thing I thought of when I read those verses was Bruce Springsteen. The other day, my ten-year-old son asked me, “Why do you like Bruce Springsteen so much?” I gave a quick answer of, “Well, I’ve been listening to him ever since I was about your age.” And while that’s true, the more I’ve thought about it, I think the real answer is empathy; I keep listening to him because of his ability to empathize with other human beings.
Springsteen’s songs are full of empathy. Sometimes I understand all too well the joys and the heartbreaks he sings about. Other times, I understand other people better—their joys, heartaches, and failures—because of his songs. And sometimes I understand their sins better too.
One of his songs that is full of empathy and never ceases to move me is “Racing in the Street.” It’s told from the perspective of an aging man who goes to work every day, and in an attempt to recapture the glory of his youth, he participates in street races. This is what he lives for. His wife is also aging and is disappointed with the life they have. You can gather from reading between the lines that these are not wealthy people by a long shot.
It’s a powerful tune full of regret, grit, and resolve. And it was the first thing I thought of when I read Zechariah 5:5–6. I thought of that song because of the last couple of lines: “Tonight, my baby and me, we’re gonna ride to the sea / And wash these sins off our hands.”
Within all of us, we know something is not right and needs to be fixed. Actually, we know there are sins that need to be removed. And we know something bigger than ourselves (and the sea) is needed to do it.
My first thought was that line from Springsteen. But my second thought was of Jesus. Because we cannot wash the sins from our hands, it is nothing but a relief for us to know He washes us clean through His work on the cross. All of us will have times of feeling like we need to clean ourselves up and wash away our sin, guilt, and shame. That is when we need to remember our iniquity has already been removed from us.
Written by Matt Redmond