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Zechariah 12-13: On That Day - Part 1 Print E-mail
Zechariah
Sunday, 25 April 2010

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The prophets wrote to warn their readers and call them to repentance.  Yet, they also wrote to encourage God’s people by speaking of what He would do for them in the future.  We see both of these ideas in the book of Zechariah.  The prophet writes to call the people to repentance (see 1:1-6) and to encourage them with the future.  Chapter 11 ended on a sad note of judgment for those who rejected the faithful shepherd.  Look at 11:15-16.  We noted last week that this probably refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70.  Yet, is that the last word for Israel?  What will happen to God’s people after their rejection of the Shepherd?

It seems that Zechariah is answering this very question in chapters 12-14.  The judgment on the foolish shepherd is not the end of the story.  Zechariah writes to encourage God’s people in these chapters by speaking of what will happen on that day, using this phrase no less than 16 times in these three chapters.  Before we look at what is going to happen on that day, let’s begin by trying to answer the ‘when’ question.  My contention is that Zechariah is prophesying about the time in between the first and second coming of Christ. 

The chronology of the letter could be summarized in this way: chapter 11 deals with the rejection of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem, chapters 12-13 deal with the time in between Christ’s two appearances, and chapter 14 deals with the return of Christ.  This may be an oversimplification at points, but I think it is helpful in understanding the text.  As we look at what Zechariah says will happen on that day in chapters 12-13 I think it is even more obvious that he is prophesying about the time in between the first and second coming of Christ.  Next week we will look at what Zechariah says about the return of Christ and the end of days.  Yet, this morning we need to see what he says is going to happen on that day, referring to the time before His return.  So then, what will happen?

First, God will deliver His people from their enemies (12:1-9).

God has repeatedly made it clear that Israel will be victorious over her enemies through His strength.  He does that again in the first nine verses of chapter 12.  In particular, He uses some striking images to communicate what will happen.  First, He speaks of Jerusalem as a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples.  The peoples will seek to drink the life out of the city but that will only result in their own staggering.  Second, Jerusalem is a heavy stone for all the peoples.  They will seek to use her for their own purposes, but all who lift it will surely hurt themselves.  Third, God will strike the horses with panic and their riders with madness, causing complete chaos for them on the battlefield.  Fourth, Judah is compared to a blazing pot in the midst of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves.  Judah will devour the nations all around her.  The Lord concludes in verse 9: I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

Why does the Lord destroy these nations?  He does this to deliver His people.  Look at verses 7-8.  The Lord is going to save His people and protect His people.  He will not let the nations consume them.  As we have seen before, judgment and salvation are side by side: judgment for the enemies of God’s people and salvation for His people.  Zechariah prophecies that on that day God will deliver His people from their enemies.

Second, God will deliver His people from their sins (12:10-13:1).

God’s people will be delivered from all of those who set themselves against them.  Not only that, but God will deliver His people from their own sins.  How does God tell us that He will do this?  First, God grants repentance to His people for their sins.  Look at 12:10.  So much could be said about this one verse.  Let me just note a couple of things. 

First, I think it is fairly obvious that him whom they have pierced refers to Christ.  John applies this prophecy to Christ in John 19:37.  Likewise, notice how the text is worded: when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced.  Yahweh, who is speaking here, identifies Himself (me) with the One who is pierced, while also maintaining a distinction (him).  This points to the New Testament doctrine of the Trinity and could only be a reference to Christ.  Christ is the One who is pierced.  Second, notice who is doing what in this verse: I will pour out…a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that…they shall mourn for him.  It all begins with God pouring out a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy on the people.  These were the ones who rejected the faithful Shepherd (see 11:7-14) and pierced His side (whom they have pierced).  Yet, God in His mercy and grace grants them godly repentance for their sins and unbelief.  Their mourning is described in verses 11-14.  Look at those with me.  The mourning will be extensive, heartfelt, and personal.  Such mourning and repentance can only be granted by God.  Paul uses such language in his encouragement to Timothy to be patient with his opponents: God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:24).  So then, God will deliver His people from their sins by granting them repentance for those sins.

Second, God opens a fountain of forgiveness for sins.  Look at 13:1.  God grants repentance for sin and forgiveness for sin.  We know that such forgiveness is found at the cross of Christ.  The fountain that God opens is the fountain of His blood, shed for us at the cross.  We rejoice as we sing the old hymn: “There is a fountain filled with blood, draw from Immanuel’s veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.” The Lord tells through the prophet that on that day He will deliver His people from their sins.  He will do this by granting them repentance and cleansing them from their sins through Christ.

Third, God will deliver His people from false prophets (13:2-6).

The cleansing that God will provide will also drive out idolatry and the prophets who condone it.  Look at 13:2.  The true people of God will be able to discern the lies of the false prophets.  They will not be led astray to trust in other gods (see 10:2-3).  In fact, the prophets themselves will be so ashamed that they will deny that they ever claimed to be prophets (see 13:4-6).  The Lord will deliver His people from those who seek to deceive them.  In the New Testament we are warned against false teachers and given the Spirit who will lead us into truth and keep us from their lies.  The Lord is surely delivering His people from false prophets as part of their cleansing from sin.

Fourth, God will deliver His people from their own impurity (13:7-9).

Once more, Zechariah prophesies about the death of Christ in 13:7.  Look at that verse with me.  What is interesting to note is the fact that it is God who is acting here against the Shepherd.  The Lord calls for the sword to awake and strike.  Once again we see the Bible teaching us that it was the Father’s will to crush His Son (Isaiah 53:10).  It was the Father’s plan for Christ to be crucified (Acts 2:23).  He delivered up His own Son for our redemption (Romans 4:24-25).  If you want to know just how bad our sins are, consider what this verse is teaching.  Our sins were so heinous, so disgusting, that God struck down His own Son in our place.  One commentator notes: “It is the most awful illustration of the repulsive and separating power of sin, that the history of the universe affords.” 2  Just so that we know that the verse speaks of Christ, Jesus quotes it in Matthew 26:31 in reference to Himself and the response of the disciples, who were scattered at His death.  The Father strikes the Son for the sins of the people.  Amazing.

One might object at this point and ask: ‘God may forgive His people’s sin by striking Christ, but they will still continue to sin, right?’  Yes, even though God grants repentance and forgiveness for sin and crushes His Son in our place, His people still struggle with sin.  Yet, Zechariah gives us a hopeful promise in verse 9.  Look at that verse with me.  After noting that many will be cut off and perish, he goes on to say that the remnant of the people will be purified by the Lord.  How will the Lord do this?  According to Zechariah, He will purify them through fire.  I think this is a reference to the suffering that His people will face.  They will go through fiery trials in this life that will burn off the dross of self-reliance and self-seeking. 

I should note that some see this whole passage as a reference to ethnic Israel and point to the fact that Paul teaches that Israel will be saved in the end (see Romans 11:25ff).  Although I think this prophecy does point to Israel’s future salvation through Christ, I do not think that it does so at the exclusion of everyone else who believes in Christ.  No, we all must face many tribulations as we follow after Christ (Acts 14:22).  What we see from the passage in Zechariah is that these tribulations serve the purpose of purifying us and making us more like Christ.  It is in these trials that Zechariah’s words are fulfilled concerning us: They will call upon my name and I will answer them.  I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’

How should we respond to what is going to happen on that day?  In light of the fact that Christ’s coming and dying on the cross for our sins is the fulfillment of much of what is said here, let me close with three points of application. 

First, be encouraged by God’s sovereign, good plan.  We saw last week (and this week) that God is sovereign over all of this.  He has brought to pass that which has already been fulfilled and He will bring the rest to pass as well.  He is sovereign over it all.  Yet, Zechariah also reminds us of the goodness of this plan, as we have particularly seen in our passage today (and will see more in chapter 14 next week).  Be encouraged by God’s sovereign goodness. 

Second, mourn the cost of your sin and rejoice in the fact that it has been paid by Christ.  Make no mistake about it, our sins drove Christ to the cross.  May we mourn this fact and be broken over our sins.  If you have never trusted in Christ and repented of your sins, ask the Lord to grant you repentance and brokenness over your sin.  But do not stay there.  Look to the cross and the resurrection of our Lord and rejoice in His payment for your sins.  Trust in that finished work and be saved. 

Finally, fight for your sanctification trusting in God’s plan to purify you.  Do not be surprised at suffering and difficulty.  Rather, view it as the refining fire that it is and ask the Lord to use it to drive out sin.  Help others to see this as they go through trials.  May we be a people who know that we have been (and will be) delivered from our enemies.  May we know that our sins have been paid for by the One who was pierced.  May we know that God is committed to driving out all our impurities for our good and His glory.  Amen.

1 William Cowper, “There is a fountain.”
2 T.V. Moore, quoted in Richard D. Phillips, Zechariah: REC (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), p. 294.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 05 May 2010 )

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