After having described the terrifying final world war at Har Megiddo, Zechariah now conveyed God’s prophetic vision of deliverance.
God as a Fountain
On that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.Zechariah 13:1 (NRSV)
The idea of God being a fountain to God’s people is all throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.
In the Psalms
- “With you is the fountain of life”
- “You who are of Israel’s fountain!”
In the prophets
- Jeremiah “They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water”
- Ezekiel “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities.”
This cleansing is an integral part of what it means to be reconciled to God. It is deliverance not only from the penalty of sin, but deliverance also from the power and presence of sin.
On that day has a double meaning, here.
The day the fountain was opened came to pass on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The apostle John quoted this verse in his gospel when he described the Roman centurion piercing Jesus’s side, making water and blood miraculously flow from the wound.
Jesus’ sacrificial blood delivers from the penalty of sin and the water washes away all of sin’s impurity and defilement—as John described, later, in one of his letters.
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9 (NRSV)
But the fountain also -will be- opened up for those of Jewish faith and descent when God pours God’s Spirit out on them, opening their eyes to recognize their Messiah.
Reconciliation describes a work by which people who are at odds with each other are made one with each other once again. As applied to salvation, reconciliation teaches that your sins and mine, which had separated us from God, have been washed away by the fountain of God’s merciful grace through Jesus.
The whole Bible is the story of God’s relationship to God’s creation and to people. Human beings began life in perfect, harmonious relationship with God, each other, and the earth. Then, through the tragic circumstances described in Genesis 3, humanity initiated the estrangement between God and people, people with people, and between humankind and all creation.
Immediately, God launched the peace process between God and the now marred human creatures.
This peace process would culminate in God the Son bearing the penalty of humanity’s sins in Himself, absorbing the totality of God’s cleansing wrath in order to remove the cause of estrangement, and thus win us back to God.
We who had made ourselves God’s enemies, may become reconciled to God through the death of God the Son.
Just as God brought about the way for our reconciliation to God, so now God calls us to ourselves be ambassadors of reconciliation.
- As bringers of the good news of salvation.
- As living models of reconciliation.
- As overflowing fountains of grace.
God’s cleansing removes guilt and shame, enabling those who have been reconciled to God to love as God loves—without judgmentalism, without the contempt that shames and tears down, without the self-righteousness that belittles and diminishes others.
Removal of Idols
On that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more; and also I will remove from the land the prophets and the unclean spirit.Zechariah 13:2 (NRSV)
In this future time, God’s cleansing of the people of God will wash away even the memory of their idols.
And if any prophets appear again, their fathers and mothers who bore them will say to them, “You shall not live, for you speak lies in the name of the Lord”; and their fathers and their mothers who bore them shall pierce them through when they prophesy.
On that day the prophets will be ashamed, every one, of their visions when they prophesy; they will not put on a hairy mantle in order to deceive, but each of them will say, “I am no prophet, I am a tiller of the soil; for the land has been my possession since my youth.”
And if anyone asks them, “What are these wounds on your chest?” the answer will be “The wounds I received in the house of my friends.”Zechariah 13:3-6 (NRSV)
Zechariah described a rejection of false teaching and false prophets so complete even the false prophets’ own parents will turn them away, publicly decry and even pierce them.
Those who had before taught and prophesied falsely will be so ashamed of their past they will do everything possible to put it behind them.
Rather than try to take on the trappings of famous prophets from the past—such as Elijah, in his hairy mantle—they will admit their true occupation and lack of calling and anointing.
Prophets of Baal were wont to cut themselves to show their devotion. Such cuts accumulated merit towards the idol they served. They were proud of their scars and cuts!
But after God’s deliverance, cleansing, and restoration, others will ask for an accounting of such scars. The only answer will be to admit to their previous status as false prophets, having spent many hours in the houses of those who they thought were friends until they were revealed to be idols and idolaters.
- The battle of Armageddon will precipitate a great revival and conversion of the Jewish nation to faith in Messiah.
- They will recognize the Messiah whom they pierced.
- In their zeal they will now pierce all false prophets who for millennia had led them astray.
Now, having talked about false prophets, Zechariah spoke of the one true and reliable prophet, Who fulfills all the prophecies, Who would ultimately be pierced by the will of God.
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,Zechariah 13:7 (NRSV)
against the man who is my associate,”
says the Lord of hosts.
Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the little ones.
My associate literally means my fellow in Hebrew, in the sense of a blood relation. It is the same association as given in John’s Gospel: The Word was with God and the Word was God, speaking of Christ’s equality and oneness with God.
Zechariah was describing the heart of atonement, Jesus giving up His glory, His rights as sovereign God. It is the picture of the Father striking His own Son in your place and mine as our sin bearer.
The immediate consequence for striking the shepherd would be the scattering of the flock, which would include suffering. Jesus quoted this verse on the night He was arrested.
And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,Jesus quoting Zechariah, Mark 14:27
and the sheep will be scattered.’
The first and immediate fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy was the scattering of the disciples. They became a type for the scattering of Judeans in 70 AD in a continuing fulfillment of this prophecy throughout history, the scattering of Jewish people all over the world, and the scattering of Christians from the central church in Jerusalem into all the world, carrying the gospel.
God’s hand of judgment would strike the shepherd, God the Son (God’s “fellow”). As the shepherd received the full blow of God’s wrath, the little ones would be protected.
Refine and Restore
In the whole land, says the Lord,Zechariah 13:8-9 (NRSV)
two-thirds shall be cut off and perish,
and one-third shall be left alive.
And I will put this third into the fire,
refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call on my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, “They are my people”;
and they will say, “The Lord is our God.”
Only a remnant would remain, but this remnant would be transformed and reconciled to God.