ZECHARIAH-SERIES NR 17
Theme: FOUNTAIN OF CLEANSING
Surely no one will put on clean clothes unless they have first had a wash! The perspiration and dirt have to be washed away. Then comes the clean clothes. In Ezek 16 the Lord said of His covenant nation: I bathed you with water and clothed you in fine linen. And we already saw in chapter 3 of this same Zechariah how the Lord replaced the High Priest Joshua’s filthy clothes with new garments – symbolic of the removal of sin, and the clothing with the righteousness of God.
The entire human race bears the stench of the filth of sin and rebellion against God, but no one smells his/her own odour. Everyone smells the same. Most of them go their entire life without becoming aware of their need for cleansing. Others think their good works will cover the stink of their sin. They put on clean clothes without first bathing.
Within this chaos, God mercifully lets a fountain spring up where lost Lawbreakers (sinners) can be washed and become His holy people. THAT is the message of Zechariah 13 – which is connected to chapter 12 where God promised to save his people and pour upon them a spirit of grace and supplication so that they would place their hope on the One they have pierced. This pierced One would be Jesus of Nazareth. HE is the fountain of cleansing that chapter 13 is speaking of. It is fulfilled 100% in Christ Jesus.
Zechariah 13 unfolds in four main thoughts:
1 ALL OF US NEED GOD’S FOUNTAIN – TO CLEANSE US OF SIN AND IMPURITY (Verse 1)
Yes, it says here that it is purposed for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem – but we should take into consideration everything that we saw in the previous studies of how the gentiles are also included into the Covenant and that the NT-church is God’s new Israel. If Jerusalem is mentioned here, we must read into it the NT Church which is made up of saved Jews and gentiles.
Although Scripture says that ALL people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) not a single person thinks that he/she is particularly THAT filthy. If I compare myself with myself, I am quite okay – so everyone thinks. Should I compare myself to the criminals in prison or the drunks in the pub or my neighbour who does not go to church or the hypocrites in the church, I do not after all look so bad. Yes, I do have my faults, but FILTHY definitely not. Therefore, why would I need the fountain of God?
One of the very first signs that the Holy Spirit is busy doing a work of grace in someone’s life, is that such a person becomes conscious of: I AM filthy. So filthy that I will end up in hell if I should die today. Like Isaiah who saw a vision of his own heart – as God sees it – and then exclaimed: “I am done for”. THEN he became a candidate to undergo God’s cleansing. The person who is of the opinion that he is okay, will never be cleansed. But where the Holy Spirit is busy with an inner surgery, conviction of sin and realisation of lostness suddenly come to the fore. Such a person then PERSUES God’s fountain. As we would RUN to the doctor for treatment once we become aware of nasty physical symptoms.
Take note of the three attributes of God’s cleansing fountain:
A – GOD’S CLEANSING FOUNTAIN ENSUES FROM HIS FREE GRACE > The existence of this fountain has no connection with any merit that is inside a human. What man did was to pierce the Shepherd – as chapter 12 teaches. The only thing man contributes to this matter is sin and filth – as verse 1 puts it. The root meaning in the Hebrew for these two words means respectively “to miss” (as to shoot and miss the target) and “that which has to be fled from”. Last mentioned referring to the periodic ceremonial impurity of a woman. That is the human’s contribution: He absolutely misses God’s standards and is therefore repulsive. SUCH a person cannot contribute anything towards establishing a cleansing fountain. IF there would exist such a fountain, it would come 100% from God’s side. It comes forth 100% out of God’s free grace and favour. And that is exactly what Zechariah 13 so beautifully testifies about.
B – GOD’S CLEANSING FOUNTAIN IS INEXHAUSTIBLE > A FOUNTAIN points towards a source that just keeps on flowing and flowing. It is an unending stream. The filthiest person is unable to stop the flow. Rather, the flow stops the filth. God’s grace is unlimited (1 Tim 1:17). Nobody can and must and have to think: “I cannot get washed, because I am too filthy” OR “perhaps I should clean myself up a little before I can go to the fountain”. Both arguments are invalid. This fountain is greater than all our sins. It includes EVERYTHING (1 John 1:9). Such as David’s adultery and murder. And Manasseh’s occultism and devil-worship. And Paul’s slander and violent persecution of the church of Christ.
C – GOD’S CLEANSING FOUNTAIN MUST BE INDIVIDUALLY APPLIED > No fountain can be of any benefit if you merely stand and stare at it and think how good it would be if others could bathe in it! Or you stand and think about how refreshing it will be to dive in, but you do not get as far as actually doing it.
In order to experience the power of God’s fountain, we must reach a definite acknowledgement of our lost condition and actively place our trust in Christ. Because HE is the fountain. His blood on the cross, His death on the cross is the power that cleanses.
2 FALSE PREACHERS WHO ARE NOT CLEANSED SHALL BE JUDGED (Verses 2-6)
The absolute hate that God has for false prophecies, false teaching, false preachers, is evident from these verses. False teaching produces idolatry, because it gives a misrepresentation of the true God and it distorts the truth. It violates the 1st commandment. A false jesus is then served, preached, worshipped AS the true Jesus. It is abhorrent. All idolatry, false preaching and the unclean spirit hidden behind false teaching, will be eradicated once and for all, is what the Lord is promising in this Prophecy in verses 2-6. God will sink the ship, and everyone who are on board shall perish.
And He will do it ON THAT DAY. Once more the DAY of which chapter 12 spoke. And we know from our study of chapter 12 that it points to the 1st coming of Christ as well as His second coming. When Jesus died and when He will return as Judge – BOTH – that is the Great Day of which the Lord is speaking through the pen of Zechariah.
Let us pay close attention – particularly in this day where the DR Church also is saturated with false preachers and false teaching that results in a false jesus being preached from some pulpits and professors’ desks at Theological Seminaries. God declares in verses 2-6 how despicable it is to Him and that He shall shipwreck this. To preach lies from the Bible in the Lord’s Name is a serious crime that will be punished with eternal death! And we must proclaim this warning!
False teaching is not about minor theological differences and misconceptions about certain aspects of the teaching of Scripture. People who differ about baptism or how exactly the second coming of Christ will take place, or the gifts of the Spirit will never accuse one another of false teaching. It does not bring who God is and the essential aspects of salvation into dispute.
For example, the kind of teaching that affects the Gospel-message and that impairs God’s character and being, is a different matter altogether, because it leads to idolatry – to worship God for who He is NOT, a God designed according to man’s desires and imagination. For example, a God who is love, but not holy. A God who is kind and forgiving, but is not righteous and just. A God who is not tri-une. A God who gathers all sinners under His wing without demands and a change of lifestyle. Any god who is not the true God as He has made Himself known in His Word, is an idol. And false teaching sows these ideas in the minds of the church. A dreadful crime in God’s eyes. For that also He placed a fountain of cleansing on the cross of Calvary. And He shall finally destroy it at Jesus’s return. False teaching is not merely a different perspective on Biblical matters. It is not just looking at it from a different angle. It will cost people their very lives – everlastingly.
These days we hear people say that doctrine (true teaching) is divisive among Christians. “Come let us rather unite in matters we all agree upon and forget the things we differ about. Christians are known for their love, not their doctrine”.
That is the opinion these days. But what does the Holy Spirit say? Look at verse 3. Someone who tries to be a teacher/prophet and preach false doctrine, his own parents will say to him: “You must die because you have told lies in the Lord’s Name”. That is in line with Moses’s instructions in Deut 13:6-11. And then his parents will stab him. That will happen on the Great Day when the Lord will bring an end to false teaching, and false preachers will turn red with shame when the Lord reveals their misdeeds. They will say: “No Lord, I am not a prophet. I am a farmer, the land has been my livelihood“. But then someone will ask him about the wounds on his body – because false prophets often cut themselves in their frenzy (1 Kings 18, Jer 47:5, Jer 48:37). But he will say: “No, I received the wounds at the house of my friends”. One excuse after another – when God judges.
These examples must not be understood literally. It is not literally true that – on the last day – parents will stab their sons, who were false preachers, to death. It is not literally true that people with wounds on their chest will stand before the throne. What the Lord shows with these examples is how real THE ISSUE is! And how real the Lord’s feelings are about this! And how real His judgment shall be. That is what is real.
Just think for a moment: See in your mind’s eye a father and mother who take up a knife to stab their beloved son to death because he is a false teacher. Why would Moses have said that in Deut 13? What was the intention behind it? What did God’s people have to learn from it?
They had to get a deep realization of how abhorrent false teaching is and how decided God’s judgment about it is. An unrepentant false teacher is deserving of death.
But there is hope and deliverance, because the Lord Jesus Christ took that death also in His own body to the cross. The many death sentences and judgments we read about in the OT, have all descended upon Christ. God meant all of it very seriously, but Christ died for it on Calvary.
That is why a false preacher in 2020 can still be saved and delivered and forgiven. Because the cleansing fountain is there and it is operative!
3 GOD HIMSELF IS THE ONE THAT GIVES A CLEANSING FOUNTAIN AND HE DID IT BY THE DEATH OF THE SHEPHERD (Verse 7)
We already read in chapter 11 about the false shepherds and the Good Shepherd. Now the Holy Spirit is showing through Zechariah how the cleansing fountain will be the death of the Good Shepherd. In the same way that the false preachers lead people away from the true God, the Good Shepherd brings people to the true God.
It echoes passages like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 that speak of Messiah who will be struck and crushed by God. When Jesus sweated blood at Gethsemane, He quoted this verse 7 of Zechariah 13 – just before the disciples deserted Him and fled (Matt 26:31). “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered”. We therefore know that the shepherd Zechariah 13 is speaking of is undoubtedly Jesus.
It is wonderful how God (the Father) in verse 7 refers to the Shepherd as “the man who is close to me”. It is an expression that actually means that the Shepherd himself is also God and yet separate from God. He will be a man. Therefore human. And male. But He will also be MORE than human. He will be like the Father. He is man and God in one Person. That which is vague in the OT, the NT says clearly. Later Jesus said of Himself: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
We know that it was humans who eventually struck and killed the Good Shepherd. The Jews commanded it and the Romans executed it. But unwittingly, they fulfilled the eternal Divine purpose of God (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). It was therefore actually God himself that sacrificed His Son so that everyone who starts to trust upon Christ, is forgiven and delivered in a just manner. God does not sweep anybody’s sin and guilt under the carpet. He punishes it in Christ AND forgives it because it has been punished. He simply cannot forgives sin without punishing it. Because God is just, He cannot forgive without punishment – in the same way any earthly judge also cannot do. For that reason God punished CHRIST in our place and forgives us in a just manner when we place our hope on Christ.
4 THOSE WHOM GOD CLEANSES FROM SIN ARE REFINED BY THE FIRE OF TEMPTATION (Verses 7-9)
The death of the Shepherd results in the sheep being scattered. We already saw that the first stage of fulfillment was when Jesus’s disciples fled after His arrest. It was also further fulfilled when the Jewish nation was scattered over many countries after the Romans had destroyed the temple in AD 70. But God kept His hand over a remnant of those who by grace count among His elect. Those are “the little ones” verse 7 refers to. Yes, the Shepherd’s death did have the result that God’s people were scattered. But the Lord keeps His hand stretched out over those who realise how small they are and take their refuge in Him. Verses 8-9 clearly shows that it is a REMNANT and not everyone. That is completely in line with the rest of the Scriptures. Out of God’s people Israel not everyone is saved. Only a remnant. And it is the same even today concerning the NT-church of God, the church of Jesus Christ. Many belong to the visible church, but not everyone belongs to the remnant.
And then the shocking verse 9: Of those that DO belong to the remnant, it is true that the Lord would refine them in the fire like silver and test them like gold. But this refining is not punishment or judgment. It is purposed to draw them close and bind them to the Shepherd. They are truly the Lord’s people. And He is their God. And they are connected to Him through thick and thin and throughout all suffering and trials.
Trials are not pleasant, but ALWAYS to the true Christian’s benefit and edification. It deepens your focus, your devotion, your prayer life, your application of God’s Word. It is indeed the proof that you are truly a part of the remnant that the Lord is keeping for Himself.
Translated by Marthie Wilson