In Zechariah 13, the promises of future grace on Judah are coming fast and furious. The chapter begins with a fountain being opened that washes away sin and impurity–the two hindrances to approaching God that must be dealt with by sacrifice and cleansing.
Then the names of the idols will be entirely removed from the land–even the memory of them will be gone. The false prophets and the unclean spirit marshaling them will be evicted.
Then, to emphasize how complete a purification this will be, a scenario is posed where someone dares to prophesy falsely in this time:
If a man still prophesies, his father and his mother who bore him will say to him: You cannot remain alive because you have spoken falsely in the name of Yahweh. When he prophesies, his father and his mother who bore him will pierce him through” (Zechariah 13:3 HCSB).
The holiness of God’s people will be so pervasive that a man’s parents will execute him for taking Yahweh’s name in vain.
This makes me think of two possibly related passages: the death of Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:6) and Jesus’ teaching about not bringing peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34-38).
In 2 Samuel, the people were treating the Ark of the Covenant as a lucky charm; they thought that Yahweh would never allow those who carried His Ark to be defeated. They marched themselves out to fight against the Philistines. And were whipped six ways from Sunday, including having the Ark captured and brought into Philistine territory.
Remember, God gave very detailed commands about how the Ark was to be moved and who was allowed to carry it. Nobody touched it at all. Only the Levites were allowed to touch the poles that carried it; nobody touched it. It was the visible representation of the throne of God Himself. It was to remain within the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle (and later the temple). The Philistines began breaking out in horribly disgusting and uncomfortable diseases as long as the Ark remained with them, so they did the only sensible thing they could do: they sent it back to Israel.
Once the Israelites reclaimed the Ark, they began to transport it back to its proper place. The only problem with their plan was that they were completely disregarding those commands God had given. Instead of being carried properly, David and his crew took a brand-new cart and let oxen pull the cart. The cart hits a pothole, and the Ark starts to tip over and fall off the cart. Uzzah reaches out and steadies the Ark and is immediately struck dead by Yahweh.
Not only were they being disobedient to God’s instructions, Uzzah’s actions–regardless of his conscious intent–betrayed a belief that God needed help. 2 Samuel 5 tells the story of the Ark being placed next to the statute of the Philistine god Dagon. Every morning, the Philistines found their statue lying prone before the Ark. One morning, Dagon’s head had fallen off. The God who could do that didn’t need Uzzah’s or David’s or anybody else’s help. He’s too holy for our filthy hands to steady Him, if He ever needed steadying in the first place.
The holiness of God lashed out in righteous, justified judgment against Uzzah. What we see in Zechariah 13 is that same holiness, but this time in the lives of the people themselves. Those washed in the sin-cleaning fountain (13:1) would be so zealous for the reputation and honor of Yahweh that they would stand against their own children if necessary. Which sounds a lot like Matthew 10, in which Jesus says that He comes to bring a sword that divides even within families.
The vision of Zechariah 13 portrays for us the passionate holiness of God active in the hearts of His people. They are no longer ruddy with sin, but washed white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) in the fountain He opened. They are completely transformed from self-absorbed self-lovers to glory-absorbed God-lovers. Instead of sinfully piercing the Innocent One (12:10), they’re now shown as righteously piercing the deserving guilty.
It would not surprise me in the least if King Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 10 was not explicitly alluding to Zechariah 13, which His original hearers would have picked up on. It would have been a scandalous claim, because in so doing He would be identifying Himself as the struck Shepherd and Associate of Yahweh Himself (13:7-9).
The Holy Spirit Himself lives within us to progressively create in us the very passionate holiness of Zechariah 13. Let us take every opportunity He gives us to, as John Newton’s hymn says, “love and sing and wonder” on the way.