Summary: WMD’s: Weapons for My Deliverance 1) The sword that struck down Jesus; 2) The fire that purifies me
WMD’s. Do you know what those are? Sure you do. You’ve been hearing about them for close to a year now. WMD’s, or Weapons of Mass Destruction were one of the reasons for the invasion of Iraq. It was believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was willing to use them against its neighbors or give them to terrorists. Would you believe that the Bible talks about WMD’s? No, not Weapons of Mass Destruction, but Weapons for My Deliverance. These are the things God uses to win my salvation and to cleanse me for his service. Through our text this morning we’ll learn about the sword that struck down Jesus, and the fire that purifies us.
Zechariah, the prophet/priest who wrote our text, lived about four hundred years before Christ’s birth. He ministered to the small group of Israelites that had returned to Jerusalem after spending seventy years as captives in Babylon (present day Iraq). Zechariah’s main job was to encourage this small group of returnees for they had come home to a land devastated by war. They had to rebuild their city and temple from scratch and although they made a good beginning of this, they quickly became discouraged when others interfered. Zechariah, along with the prophet Malachi, encouraged the group to be brave in the face of opposition. They assured these returnees that, even though they were a small group, in time they would stand revealed as God’s glorious people.
To assure the people of God’s love for them, Zechariah spoke of the weapons God would use for their deliverance. In the first verse of our text God said through Zechariah: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me… Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (Zech. 13:7a). In this verse God sends out a call for arms. While that isn’t unusual, the intended target is. God calls for the sword to strike his shepherd, the “man who is close to me”. Who is this shepherd, the man close to God? Thankfully we don’t have to guess because on the night he was betrayed, Jesus quoted these words when he told Peter how he and the other disciples would run away after his arrest (Mark 14:27). What this verse in Zechariah tells us is that, while Jesus’ arrest was carried out by sinful men, it was God’s will that his Son be struck. Does that mean there was infighting among the members of the Trinity? Did God the Father turn on God the Son? Not exactly. While God the Father called for his own Son to be struck by the sword, the Son suffered this willingly. He knew that this was all part of his Father’s loving plan to bring us rebellious people back into his fold.
“But,” many interject “I’m not rebellious! Jesus doesn’t need to be struck down because of me. I’ve done my best when it comes to living the way God wants me to!” What would you say, however, about a judge who lets a drunk driver go free because he testified that he tried to do his best while driving under the influence? You would be mad wouldn’t you, especially if this drunk driver ran into your car and totaled it! You would at least want the judge to make the drunk driver pay for the damages because someone has to. In the same way it’s foolish for us to think that as long as we do our best God will accept us. The truth is, our best isn’t very good because from the moment we are conceived we are under the influence of our sinful nature. What seems good to us is still repulsive to God. For example we may feel good that we didn’t gossip about our boss when our co-workers did, but if we did nothing to speak up for our boss, then we were complicit in breaking the Eighth Commandment and just as guilty of sin as our co-workers.
Friends, we all have sinned. We all are guilty of being rebellious against God. Thankfully we don’t have to pay for the damage we’ve caused while under the influence of our sinful nature. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins when he died on the cross. We are forgiven. Unfortunately many people reject this message of salvation. While that’s sad it’s not surprising. In fact God said in our text that two-thirds of the people would be cut down while a third would be saved (Zech. 13:8). That’s his way of saying that the majority of people in this world will reject what he has done to save them. Therefore it is not surprising that only a small group of believers gathers here every Sunday for worship. Neither should be we become discouraged when it seems that no one wants to listen to what we have to tell them about Jesus. God himself told us it would be this way.