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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Being Made Whole through the One who was Pierced
Text:Zechariah 12:10-13:1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-07-03
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 30:1,2                                                                                            

Ps 42:3,5

Reading – Zechariah 12; John 19:31-37

Ps 143:1,4,5,6,7

Sermon – Zechariah 12:10-13:1

Hy 25:1,2,3

Hy 23:1,2,3,6

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation, in this life you often find joy and sadness, side-by-side. Our everyday experience knows a mixture of happiness and trouble. One moment we might be smiling and enjoying things, but it doesn’t take much to turn our smile into a frown. It’s just the nature of this life.

We see that in our text. Here there is great mourning and bitter grieving, tears are raining down. All of Judah, men and women, small and great, priests and people, are weeping—which seems strange, next to the victory and joy in the first part of chapter 12. The first part of the chapter is about enemy nations being judged, God’s people and his king being lifted up. After that awesome deliverance, you’d expect a victory parade, not a funeral march. But our text is full of tears. So why this sudden lapse into sorrow? Why has the LORD brought his people so high, only to throw them so low?

We need to read carefully. For in this passage that’s so filled with grief, the LORD is promising a work of change and renewal. God is going to bring repentance and cleansing. That’s what this whole book of Zechariah is about: restoration. Zechariah tells us about how so many prophecies have been fulfilled, for Judah has returned from exile, she’s been given her city again, and she worships at the rebuilt temple. God foretold all of this. But that’s not everything. For God is still working on something more. Do you remember what it was? Not just a temple, but a Saviour. Not just restoring the land, but reconciling with the LORD. This is our theme,

Zechariah tells about the LORD’s promise to restore his people:

  1. in faith, we’ll look to the One who is pierced
  2. in sorrow, we’ll receive the Spirit of repentance
  3. in sin, we’ll come to the fountain for cleansing 

 

1. we look to the One who is pierced: To get into the flow of our passage, let’s read verse 9 again, “It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” Zechariah sees a day coming when Jerusalem isn’t besieged anymore by her enemies, but when David’s city is thriving and prosperous. There will come a day when Jerusalem is a glorious home for God’s dwelling, and a shelter for God’s people.

But don’t expect to find this Jerusalem on a map, says Zechariah. He’s not talking about the physical city of Jerusalem, made of stone and wood. He’s not, because we’re in the last times. Just a bit later comes the phrase which is familiar to us from other prophets: “In that day” (12:11). That little phrase is always about times of great change in Scripture, when the old is passing away and a new era is beginning.

Zechariah has already whet our appetite for God’s glory. But now see how our text links with it, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication…” (12:10). The “and” tells us that one reality links to the next: Jerusalem’s victory needs to be joined with a revival of the heart. When the Messiah ascends to his throne “in that day,” his people also have to be changed on the inside.

And why do they need to be changed? In a word: because they’re wicked. They’re not a people whom any king would want to rule. Consider verse 10, “Then they will look on me whom they pierced.” There’s only a hint of it, but something terrible and violent has happened. God’s people have blood on their hands. The Hebrew word for “pierced” leaves no doubt about it. The word describes a killing or stabbing; like when Saul said to his armour-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through” (1 Sam 31:4). Jerusalem has murdered someone. They’ve cut him down in cold blood.

The only thing that we need to do is identify the victim. Actually, that’s easy: God says it clearly, “they will look on me whom they have pierced.” But think about that, that the LORD himself has been “pierced,” slain like a soldier on the field of battle. How can the Almighty have been killed? And when did this happen?

Some say this can’t be literal, but it has to be a figurative piercing. The LORD has been wounded by Judah and her wicked deeds. God has been injured by the people’s contempt for his Word, their idolatry and injustice. And certainly it’s true that they’ve hurt God deeply with their sin. It’s just like we injure the LORD by being willful in our sin, by being ungrateful for his blessings, by constantly falling short of his commands—that hurts him. But we can’t get around how that verb “pierced” is so vivid and real—that every other time in Scripture it means something like “to murder or execute or slaughter.” Somehow, God is speaking about a violent death that He himself has suffered.

A good possibility is that God is describing someone who stands in for him. Someone who represents the LORD has been pierced, which means the LORD himself has indeed suffered. This is because in the ancient world, a king’s messenger wasn’t just a hired hand. He actually stood in the place of the one who sent him. It’s different from when we send FedEx to drop off a package somewhere; the courier guy isn’t our personal representative on someone else’s doorstep. He’s not going to explain the contents of the package, or pay our bill—he just wants to get a signature, and get going. But in Bible times, a messenger was a substitute for the one who sent him. Honour him, and you honour his king or lord. Greet him with a knife through the heart, and you’re piercing the one who sent him. “They have pierced me,” says God.

So who is meant here? Who was a representative of God, slain for God’s sake, and then mourned so deeply? Remember that Zechariah’s speaking about another time. He is prophesying in the truest sense of the word, he’s foretelling an event long before it happens: “They look on me whom they have pierced.”

Here is one of those Old Testament texts where we need so badly the shining light of the New Testament. This prophecy might have been strange and obscure to Zechariah’s audience, but it’s not strange to us. Why? Because we know who was God’s messenger on earth. We know the prophet who could say, “I and the Father are one. Anyone who receives me, receives him who sent me.” We know that Jesus was slain, pierced, though He was sent from heaven itself.

So we find this verse quoted a couple of times in the New Testament. The first comes at that scene at Golgotha, in John 19. Here’s how it goes: “But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out… These things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of his bones shall be broken.’ And another Scripture says, ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’” (vv 33-37).

John has used Zechariah’s prophecy to make a stunning picture of God’s substitute, the one who was sent to bear the curse of sin. It’s like Isaiah says about Christ, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (53:5).

That’s the miracle of it: God was able to take this most violent act, this murder, and turn it into a rescue operation for sinners. A tragedy, transformed into deliverance. The one they pierced, God’s own representative—God himself!—becomes the way that we are redeemed. Because He dies, we don’t have to die. Because He is slain, we don’t have to be slain.

And the reality is that our sins killed him. In a real sense, we pierced the Son of God—we sent him to his death by our transgressions. It was because of our unbelief, our pride, our idolatry, that Christ was killed. “It was my sin that held him there.” We weren’t at the cross, but we share in the guilt of those who did the deed: sinners, rejecting the God who made them, rejecting the God who wanted to save them!

To press the point home: If we had been there, would we have done any differently? Would we have stopped the execution of God’s Messiah? No, we would’ve kept silent. We would have let our fear of man, our lack of faith in God’s promise, keep us from speaking up. God’s servant would be pierced, just like God said.

But that’s not the end of the story. For see what the people do in verse 10: “they look” on the one they pierced. And that’s not just “looking” at a spectacle or disaster, like people stare at a car wreck along the highway, or how they watch a plane crash on YouTube. Because there’s another kind of “looking.” There’s a looking that we can do with the eyes of the heart, when we look to the LORD in faith and expectation. Think of what the Psalms say, “I look to you, O God, for salvation.” Or think of when the Israelites must look to the bronze serpent in the wilderness and live. This is looking with the eyes of faith!

God sent his Son to the earth. We killed him. We murdered him by our sins. But in his wisdom and grace, the Father now says, “Look to the one who was pierced. Fix your eyes upon Jesus, crucified and resurrected. Look at him, but not in shame. Just look at what He was willing to do. And believe in him as your Saviour. He might’ve been killed by you, yet He was killed for you.” Look to him.

We need to hear that call, day after day. It’s too easy for us to take a passing glance at Jesus, where we say, “I know where He is. He’s there, if I need him.” That’s not looking. That’s not faith. But look every day to the one who died in your place. Embrace his love. Treasure his goodness. Know his faithfulness. Depend on his grace. He is for you, if you believe, and if you repent.

 

2. the Spirit of repentance: When the people returned from exile, they had to give attention to building the unfinished temple. But restoration has to go much further than that. It was good for Judah to have a Temple Committee, but they also needed restored hearts and minds. And that’s what we need too! Because while we’re good at painting walls and installing lights, only God can renew his church from the inside.

The LORD recognizes this. Listen to how He introduces himself in 12:1, “The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.” Better than any cardiologist, God knows the heart: our heart’s condition, its desperate need, its potential. So this is what He does, “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication” (12:10).

Let’s take a closer look. Who receives this Spirit? It says the “house of David.” In Zechariah’s day, David’s throne was so far from the strength that it once knew—a fallen dynasty. Yet a king from David’s line will lead the people. Isaiah said it too, about the Messiah: “He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom forever” (9:7). The Spirit of God will come upon this new and righteous king—and the same Spirit will be given to “the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” Here Jerusalem stands for the whole people of God. King and nation together will receive God’s Spirit.

Notice what kind of Spirit this is. It’s a Spirit of “grace and supplication” (12:10). He’s the Spirit of “grace,” because the Lord’s gift is based not on what people do. Why would God ever give help to those who pierced him? He should destroy them! But God is gracious in ways beyond what we can understand. So He also gives a Spirit of “supplication” (12:10), or prayer. This Spirit works in us a desire to seek the LORD.

We’ve already seen how the Spirit can open eyes to the one we’ve pierced. It’s like getting a new pair of prescription glasses after years of squinting and straining. Though the Spirit we can suddenly look at Christ with understanding: “Oh, this is not our enemy. This is not some crazy person. Neither is this someone I can ignore. This is the Saviour! This is the Christ!” And because of that understanding, we also look at Christ with sorrow. As we said, the sorrow overflows, “In that day there shall be great mourning…”

The sorrow comes bursting out of our text: “They will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for him as one grieves for a firstborn” (v 10). The image of a funeral is set before us, and the air is filled with weeping. To lose a child is one thing—unspeakable sorrow. To lose an only child intensifies that grief. But to lose a firstborn son, one who would be the heir and carry on the family name—this was cause for the most bitter of sorrows. To a Jewish family, it meant the destruction of all hope. It was the end of the line.

Then Zechariah makes another comparison, moving from the family setting to something broader. The grief sweeps the country: “In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo” (v 11). The location of Hadad Rimmon isn’t known for sure. But we do know something happened at Meggido that brought much grief to Israel. It was on the plain of Meggido that King Josiah died fighting against the Egyptians. He was a godly king, but he was the first ever king of Judah to fall in battle. So the book of Chronicles tells us that after his death, the people mourned long and hard—it says that they even commemorated Josiah’s death for decades to come. You might compare it to our own days of tragedy. Maybe like after the events of 9/11, or other times when everything seems to stand still—there is a deep grief.

The grief for the “pierced one” continues in verses 12-14. It shows how lamentation will be all-inclusive: families and wives, priests and princes, prophets and leaders. Everyone will feel the guilt for what’s taken place.

Indeed, there was sorrow at the cross, too. Jesus was murdered by the mob, but when it was all done, and he hung lifeless on the cross, see what happens. Luke describes it, “And all the multitudes who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return [to the city], beating their breasts” (23:48). The crowds were actually upset. They knew something terrible just happened. They came to be entertained, but went home disturbed. They had actually killed God’s Messiah.

There was sorrow then—there will be sorrow in the future too. For there’s another place where our text is quoted. It’s in Revelation 1:7, when John announces Christ’s second coming, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even they who pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of him.” John says on that day of Christ’s return, many people are going to be deeply grieved. Because they knew this Christ, they pierced him and rejected him. And now He’s back, back as the King of the universe. No wonder they mourn! These are tears of regret, of deep disappointment.  But these tears are too little, too late. “All the tribes of the earth will mourn because of him.” That’s pretty awful, to have waited too long. Terrible, to find out too late, who Jesus really is—to find out only when He comes back on the clouds. What have I done?!

And beloved, the truth is: Either we grieve then, or we grieve today. Either we grieve at his return, or we grieve now. And today there’s another kind of grief. It’s when we’re cut to the heart by our sin. It’s when his Word stings us deeply, and we realize how much we need a Saviour, and how much our sin has cost. When we look on the one pierced, on God’s messenger, and we ask: This is what our sin has done? This is what it took? Humiliation and torture and death? We grieve, but with the Spirit of supplication we look to God, and we look to his Son. Pray for grace. Pray for forgiveness. Pray that you’d be renewed on the inside.

 

3. He opens a fountain for cleansing: God’s people were a dirty people. Maybe not in an outward way, but deep within they’d long been polluted. The idols of the nations and the corruption of sin had stained them deeply. But God is going to deal with this: “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and the for inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness” (13:1). God will give cleansing.

The people of Judah already knew about cleansing from the laws of Moses. There God speaks of things like the water to be used for purifying the Levites. There was also the water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer, sprinkled to remove uncleanness. But these were only symbolic things, and God’s people need something more. Because “sin and uncleanness” go deeper than the surface. It’s not just about eating the wrong kind of food, or letting out the occasional swear word. God has to clean us on the inside.

And He will, with that open fountain. When we confess our sins to God, and we turn to him truly, He gives full cleansing. Think for a moment of those TV ads for things like dish soap or laundry detergent. There’s a slow-motion shot of red wine spilling, and then a picture of how the cleansing agents in the cleaner work powerfully to lift out the stain—leaving you with spotless shirts and squeaky clean dishes. We understand that that’s only advertising. It’s supposed to make things look dramatic.

But when it comes to the Spirit’s power in the human heart, it is something dramatic. It’s not just an outward washing, a surface scrubbing. This is spiritual revival, to the very core! As it says in 1 John 1:7, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” In Christ, God has opened an endless fountain for cleansing. So if you will live, you have to go that fountain. If you’ll be clean, you have to wash in that fountain.

Think about how God gives a reminder of this cleansing in the water of our baptism. Right on your forehead is the mark that Christ has washed you. He has cleansed you with water from his fountain. In Christ you are clean!

That truth gives us great hope as we struggle with sin and temptation, and as we struggle with our own unbelief. Sometimes we think about all the bad things that we’ve done over the years, the many ways that we’ve failed. We’re so dirty! And from day to day, we see our weakness in the faith so clearly. We wonder too, if there’s a way to stay clean in this dirty world. Is there ever a way to keep our life from the corruption of sin? We have a fountain for cleansing, and it’s a fountain that never runs out. Because it’s like this fountain is connected to a pipeline of God’s grace, a pipeline of living water that is full and constant and gushing. If we ask him to, Christ washes us with his precious blood. If we ask him to, Christ gives us the help of his Spirit. So keep asking! Keep going to the fountain.

And if you’ve been washed, that means you have to act like it. Act like one who has been cleaned in Christ. Don’t be like a pig gets sprayed off with the hose, and then returns at once to wallow in the mud. Don’t return to sin. You’ve been cleansed in Christ, so stay clean! Then you’ll be ready to rejoice when you see your Saviour come again.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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