Summary: Zechariah’s message points to the ’Day of the Lord’ when the climax of God’s plan of salvation comes in the Cross of Christ, tracing The Fountain Anticipated, The Fountain Experienced and The fountain Applied.
A FOUNTAIN OPENED FOR CLEANSING
From a casual reading of the prophets of the Old Testament it’s easy to get the impression that they had a gloomy message of doom for the nation of Israel and the surrounding countries. They are certainly strident in their condemnation of sinful practices which offended a righteous God whose wrath was richly deserved. But the prophetic books also contain a vibrant hope of restoration through God’s intervention in the establishment of His Kingdom. God was working to a plan. The time for its unveiling hadn’t yet come but precious and wonderful glimpses were revealed by these men of God although they themselves may not have completely understood the significance of what they were saying.
The prophet Zechariah, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, was both a prophet and a priest. He was probably born in Babylon during the exile following the nation’s humiliation by Nebuchadnezzar and returned to Palestine in 536 B.C. at the same time as Haggai. The two prophets worked hand in glove, complementing each other’s message. Zechariah began ministering among the Jews who had returned from captivity in Babylon together with Haggai who was the practical man. His work was to stir up the people in the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem but he too was given a wonderful insight in the coming of the Messiah when he predicted, ‘The desire of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory’ (2:7).
Zechariah’s special emphasis was on the need of national and personal repentance and renewal and how it would be achieved in the coming of Jesus, still some 500 years in the future. Interspersed with stern words of denouncing sin, Zechariah’s prophecy contains brilliant shafts of light on the person and work of the Messiah. They’re words which are quoted in the Gospels as a clear foretelling of what actually happened. There’s what we now recognize as the Palm Sunday event: ‘Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey’(9:9).
But Zechariah foretold that the scene of superficial rejoicing wouldn’t last long. The prophet had to follow up with increasingly sombre messages. The king’s shepherd is rejected: ‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me! … Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’ (13:7). But there’s worse to come: ‘They will look on me, the one they have pierced’ (12:10). The prophecies clearly point to the fulfilment of the earlier prophecy of Isaiah when he foretold to the letter that the Servant of the Lord would suffer for the sin of the world (Isa. 53), and so vividly portrayed in the gospel stories of the Passion of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 26 and 27.
In recording what Zechariah saw in his prophetic eye, he repeated a phrase: ‘on that day’ (12:3,4,6,8,9; 13:1,2,4). Zechariah is referring to ‘the day of the Lord’, a phrase used by many of the prophets and also found in the New Testament. It’s a period of time or a special ‘day’ when God is working out His plan of salvation, looking forward to the time when Christ will be seen to reign over the universe in the new heaven and earth (Phil. 2:6-11).
The final fulfilment of ‘the day of the Lord’ will come at the end of history when with wonderful power God will deal with evil and restore His rule. The problem of sin is the central problem in the Old Testament. It began in the Garden of Eden and won’t be eradicated until the final ‘day of the Lord’. But how is it to happen? Zechariah supplies the key: ‘On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity’ (13:1). Here we have:
THE FOUNTAIN ANTICIPATED
Zechariah’s prophecy tells us of the climax of God’s revelation of His plan of salvation; it’s the crux of the gospel. But it was no afterthought to deal with sinful mankind. It had been conceived in the Eternal Council of Almighty God even before the foundation of the world to bring redemption to His lost creation. It’s what the writer to the Hebrews described as ‘so great salvation’ (2:1). But before we discover its sheer wonder and splendour we must ask the question:
‘WHY IS THE FOUNTAIN NECESSARY?’
Zechariah specifically states that this special fountain was ‘to cleanse … from sin and impurity.’ The Bible’s description of ‘Sin’ is that which ‘misses the mark’; it ‘falls short of the glory of God’ (Rom. 3:23). And ‘impurity’ is a word which sums up all those things which are dishonouring to God; those things which defile mankind. This had been the problem ever since the Fall of mankind in Eden. There has never been a man or woman in the world who has been able to stand up to Satan, the arch-enemy of God. Generation after generation came and went proving that mankind was in bondage to sin and incapable of dealing with inbred sin, even though increasingly blessed with the resources of mind and matter. I remember seeing a carton showing a scholarly man sitting on top of a great pile of books, looking at himself in a mirror, and above his head a question mark. He has mastered every subject of learning, but couldn’t answer the problem of himself! The infection of sin has warped human nature so that it erupts in selfishness and greed. A current example of this is what has been described as the ‘financial tsunami’ sweeping the world, bringing loss and hardship to millions. It could well be the judgement of God to a sinful world.