Dec 13, 2013

The Cleansing of God's People

Zechariah 13:1–9

"On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness" (v. 1).

In our study of Zechariah 12 yesterday, we concluded that the prophet seems to teach that before the final defeat of God's enemies, a large number of ethnic Jews will turn to the Messiah whom they have long rejected. The heartfelt mourning of repentance over the God-man pierced for their sins, however, is not where the Lord's work will end (vv. 10–14). As we see in today's passage, many other benefits will follow.

First, there will be a grand cleansing of sin and corruption. Zechariah 13:1 describes a fountain that will open for "the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem." The Lord is lavishly merciful when He forgives His people. He does not provide a trickle of water but a river that restores life to all those whom it cleanses (see Ezek. 47:1–12). God holds nothing back when He shows mercy to sinners and redeems them from guilt and shame. This is true no matter whom the Lord forgives. As Matthew Henry comments, "There is mercy enough in God, and merit enough in Christ, for the forgiving of the greatest sins and sinners." We who trust in Jesus today already experience this life-giving water, the Holy Spirit Himself who cleanses us from all transgression (John 7:37–39). But we will enjoy it even more fully when the full company of God's elect, Jew and Gentile, finally receive His grace.

The fountain of cleansing removes from creation even the slightest hint of sin. Zechariah refers to the land being cleansed of idols and false prophets on that final day (Zech. 13:2–6). Although the prophet spoke of future events, his message had great significance for his original audience. As we have noted, the type of rank idolatry and false prophecy that led to the exile was not a problem for Zechariah's contemporaries. But as idolatry is the worst of all sins, the reference to it showed the first hearers of Zechariah's message that God's cleansing of His people would know no boundaries. Even the worst sins and sinners would enjoy it.

Verses 7–9 of Zechariah 13 point to the striking of "the shepherd" that is somehow tied to these other events. Since there is no time reference such as "on that day" given, it seems that Zechariah does not see this striking happening alongside the final restoration. It will be necessary to the restoration, but it will not happen at the time of the full renewal of all things. A true shepherd associated with God Himself will suffer, and His sheep will scatter, but the Lord will use that event to purify His remnant, the third of His flock that is left alive when its leader endures pain and agony.

Coram Deo

In light of the incarnation and the cross, we know that the true shepherd to whom Zechariah refers is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Struck for the sins of His people, Jesus is tied inseparably to the final restoration, for without His ministry there can be no renewal of creation. In Him there is preserved a remnant that is being tested and purified. We are a part of that remnant by faith alone, and we look forward to our full and final refinement.

For Further Study