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CHRIST, THE FOUNTAIN OPENED
Zechariah 13:1. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin, and for uncleanness.
THE various metaphors by which our Lord is described in Scripture, while they give just representations of him, are frequently calculated in a peculiar manner to impress the minds of those who heard them. This remark admits of the fullest confirmation from our Lord’s own discourses [Note: See John 6:35; John 11:25.]: it may also be illustrated by the prophecy before us. The Jews had heard of the wanderings of their ancestors in the wilderness; and they had themselves traversed a much larger tract of country in their return from the Babylonish captivity. To them therefore the tidings of a fountain to be opened would convey very strong and pleasing sensations. Nor shall we be unaffected by them if we lament our spiritual defilements.
We propose to consider,
The meaning of the prophecy—
The Scriptures often mention a time under the expression “that day”—
[This expression sometimes refers to the apostolic, and sometimes to the millennial period. It is to be understood in this place as designing the former. That was a day in comparison of which all preceding ages were but as the morning dawn: then the mists of Gentile ignorance and Jewish superstition were dispelled before the Sun of Righteousness.]
At that period Christ was to be known under the notion of “a fountain”—
[Christ is frequently spoken of under the metaphor of a fountain [Note: Jeremiah 2:13.Isaiah 12:3; Isaiah 12:3.]. He virtually applies the name to himself [Note: The Jews after their return from Babylon used on a certain day to fetch water in a joyous and triumphant manner from the pool of Siloam, in reference, it is supposed, to Isaiah 12:3. And on that day our Lord addressed them, and pointed them to himself as the true well of salvation, John 7:37-38.]. He is described nearly by the same character even in heaven [Note: Revelation 22:1. The river, which John beheld, proceeded out of the throne of the Lamb.]. He justly answers to this description, having within himself an inexhaustible source of blessings.]
He was to be a fountain “opened”—
[From eternity was he as “a fountain sealed,” having in himself all fulness, before there existed any creatures to whom he might impart of it. Before his incarnation he afforded a scanty measure of his Spirit [Note: The meanest Christian is more enlightened than the greatest of the prophets, Luke 7:28.]. At the time of his death he properly became a fountain opened.]
The persons for whom it was to be opened were “the house of David,” &c.—
[“The house of David” are the spiritual seed of Christ [Note: He is the root as well as the offspring of David, Revelation 22:16.]. “The inhabitants of Jerusalem” are the members of the Christian Church. Both together import all believers, high and low, rich and poor; none are excluded who wish to participate his blessings.]
The end for which it was to be opened was, to cleanse from “sin”—
[There had been fountains for ceremonial uncleanness [Note: There was a brazen sea, above fifty feet in circumference, and almost ten in depth, wherein the priests were to wash their hands and feet: there were also ten lavers wherein the things offered for sacrifice were washed, and from whence the water for the sprinkling of the offerers was taken, 2 Chronicles 4:6.]. There were also fountains for the cure of bodily disorders [Note: The pool of Siloam, whither our Lord sent the blind man to wash, (John 9:11.) and which was typical of Him who was the Shiloh of the tribe of Judah, (Genesis 49:10.) and eminently the sent of God. Compare John 9:7; John 6:38-40. Bethesda was still more appropriate to this use, John 5:2-4.]. But Christ was a fountain for moral defilement, and spiritual maladies.]
In due season this prophecy received its accomplishment.
The completion of it—
From the incarnation of Christ this fountain was more fully exhibited: during his ministry its waters flowed in partial streams; but at his death it was fully opened:
It was broken open on the cross—
[In our Lord’s agony, the blood had flowed through every pore [Note: Luke 22:44.]: previous to his crucifixion his back had been torn with scourges [Note: John 19:1.Psalms 129:3; Psalms 129:3.]: the crown of thorns pierced his sacred temples [Note: Mark 15:17; Mark 15:19.]: his hands and feet were nailed to the accursed tree [Note: Psalms 22:16.]; and his side, pierced with the spear, emitted blood and water [Note: John 19:34. This imported that he should cleanse both from the guilt and power of sin, 1 John 5:6.]. Thus did men and devils concur in breaking open this fountain. The dying thief was made a monument of its cleansing efficacy [Note: Luke 23:43.].]
It was set open on the day of Pentecost—
[Then the Spirit was poured out in a more abundant measure: thousands, even of the murderers of our Lord, were cleansed by it. The effects produced were instantaneous and abiding [Note: Acts 2:42-47.]: the blackest guilt was purged, the most ferocious natures changed. Nor was its influence to be confined any longer to one age or nation.]
It was left open in the promises to all succeeding generations—
[We may say of this fountain as St. Paul does of the Gospel [Note: Romans 10:6-8.]—. The word is the channel in which it flows: it has already spread its streams to the ends of the earth [Note: Romans 10:18.]: it will flow till that prophecy be fully accomplished [Note: Habakkuk 2:14.]—: the invitations to it are yet sounding in the ears of all [Note: Isaiah 55:1.Revelation 22:17; Revelation 22:17.]—.]
To those who expect salvation while they live in sin—
[If men could be saved in their sins, why was this fountain opened? Would God have given up his Son to death without necessity? or shall they who neglect the fountain be cleansed like those who wash in it? Let none deceive their own souls: to wash in this fountain is the one thing needful. They who cry with the leper, shall receive the same answer [Note: Matthew 8:2-3.]—.]
To those who hope to cleanse themselves in some other way—
[Many hope to wash away their guilt by tears of repentance. But would God have opened this fountain, if any other would have sufficed? How lamentable that there should still be such cause for those expostulations [Note: 2 Kings 5:13.]—! Let those who say like Peter, remember the answer given him [Note: John 13:8.]—.]
To those who doubt whether they may come to this fountain—
[Many imagine that the greatness of their guilt is a bar to their acceptance; but the fountain was opened for sin and for uncleanness. What would have been the effect of such hesitation at the pool of Bethesda [Note: John 5:4; John 5:7.]? Be it remembered that all, who have a need, have a right to wash: let every one then press forward, lest he lose the blessing.]
To those who have experienced its cleansing efficacy—
[It is in you that the efficacy of this fountain must be seen. Let it appear that it has cleansed you from earthly and sensual desires. But still you have need to wash in it daily [Note: We contract defilement every step we take. Bishop Beveridge justly observes, “Our very tears need to be washed, and our repentances to be repented of.”]. This do, and you shall soon join in that triumphant song [Note: Revelation 1:5-6.]—]
CHRIST SMITTEN FOR OUR SINS
Zechariah 13:7. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
THIS is generally thought to be the beginning of a distinct prophecy: yet it seems not only to be connected with, but in a measure to arise out of, the preceding context. The connexion, it is true, is not obvious: but it must be remembered, that this is the way in which some of the most important predictions in all the Scriptures are introduced. Take, for instance, the prophecy that Christ should be born of a pure virgin; a more wonderful event than which is not predicted in all the inspired volume: there was no necessary connexion between that, and the destruction of the ten tribes; nor between that, and the obstinate incredulity of Ahab: yet, on Ahab’s declining to ask a sign that the deliverance promised to Judah should speedily be accomplished, the Lord gave him this sign; “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [Note: Isaiah 7:10-14.].” In that prophecy, the event predicted appeared wholly foreign to the subject that was in hand: but in the prophecy before us it is not so. The chapter begins with a plain declaration, that in due time Christ, by the shedding of his blood upon the cross, should open unto mankind “a fountain to wash them from sin and uncleanness.” It then goes on to say, that by him idolatry should be destroyed; and that both men and women, if tempted to idolatry by their own children, should immediately execute judgment upon them, and thrust them through with a sword or dart [Note: This was agreeable to the law of Moses, Deuteronomy 13:6-10.]: and that so general should be men’s abhorrence of idolatry, that those who had been disposed towards it, and had even marked their bodies in honour of their idols, should deny their having ever felt any disposition towards it, and should ascribe the marks that were on their flesh to some “wounds which they had received, either accidentally, or for some particular purpose, in the house of their friends.”
Then in our text God says, As the false prophet shall be slain by his own father for endeavouring to turn you from God, so shall the true prophet be slain by his father in order to turn you to God: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.”
In discoursing on these words we shall consider,
The commission given to Jehovah’s sword—
It is bidden to “awake and smite:” but here two questions arise;
Whom was it to smite?
[It was assuredly the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone answers to the character here described. He is the Shepherd of Israel,” appointed to that office by God himself [Note: Psalms 80:1.Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 34:23.]. He designates himself by that very name, and as the person to be smitten under that very character [Note: John 10:11.]. Moreover, he alone can be called “Jehovahapos;s fellow:” for he was God as well as man [Note: John 1:1.], even the true God [Note: 1 John 5:20.], the mighty God [Note: Isaiah 9:6.], altogether One with the Father himself [Note: John 10:30.], “God over all, blessed for ever;” and, being-God in his own nature, and therefore incapable of suffering, he assumed our nature on purpose that he might suffer [Note: Philippians 2:6-8.].]
In whose hand was it to inflict the stroke?
[It was the Father himself who was to wield it, even he who here calls upon it to arise and smite. True it was that men and devils were the more immediate agents [Note: Luke 22:53.]; but they were only instruments in the Father’s hands: “they could have had no power at all against him, if it had not been given them from above.” They were willing agents, no doubt, and executed what their own malignant dispositions dictated: but God overruled their designs for the accomplishment of his own eternal purposes [Note: Acts 2:23; Acts 4:37.]. There was not one thing done by them which had not been foretold; nor one thing predicted, which they did not unwittingly and exactly perform [Note: John 19:28; John 19:30.].
But even without the intervention either of men or devils, the Father himself smote him. What was it but a sense of God’s wrath upon his soul that made him sweat great drops of blood in the garden? It was the Father himself who put that bitter cup into his hands. Upon the cross too, when Jesus uttered no complaints respecting inferior agents, he bitterly bewailed the hidings of his Father’s face: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Thus was verified that awful prediction of the prophet, “It pleased the Lord, even Jehovah himself, to bruise him [Note: Isaiah 53:10.].”]
Let us next inquire into,
The grounds and reasons of this commission—
It was the Father’s purpose to exercise mercy towards our fallen race: but he would do it in a way that should be consistent with his own perfections. Hence he gave us his only-begotten Son to be our substitute and surety: and against him, when standing in that capacity, he called forth the sword;
To shew his indignation against sin—
[We presume not to say what God might have done, if it had pleased him: but we are sure that “it became him, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings [Note: Hebrews 2:11.].” As the Moral Governor of the Universe, it became him to vindicate the honour of his broken law, and to mark his utter abhorrence of iniquity: and this he did more strongly and effectually in smiting his only-begotten Son, than if he had smitten the whole human race. As for the children of men, they are but worms of the earth, far inferior to the angels that fell: but Christ was his co-equal, co-eternal Son, his fellow, his equal. O what an evil must sin be, when God would not suffer it to pass unpunished even in the person of his own Son, on whom it was found only by imputation! We may be well assured, that, on whomsoever it be found in the last day, it will be visited with “wrath to the uttermost.”]
To reconcile justice with mercy in the salvation of sinners—
[Had sin been pardoned without any atonement, the claims of justice must have been superseded. But God would not exalt mercy at the expense of justice; and therefore he devised a way of satisfying the demands of justice, whilst he listened with complacency to the voice of mercy. “He laid our iniquities upon” his only dear Son, and exacted of him the debt which had been incurred by us: and that debt he paid to the uttermost farthing; so that justice itself has nothing more to require of us, provided only we plead what Christ has done and suffered in our behalf. Thus has God become “a just God and a Saviour,” or, as St. Paul expresses it, he is “just, and yet the justifier of them that believe in Jesus.”]
Such being the reasons for this mysterious commission, we proceed to notice,
The effects and consequences of it—
The immediate effect was the scattering of our Lord’s disciples—
[One would have thought that our Lord’s more intimate disciples, who for above three years had heard all his discourses, and seen all his miracles, would have firmly adhered to him, even to the end; more especially as they had promised, in the most solemn manner, to follow him, even unto death: but God, who knew what was in man, foretold that they would shamefully desert him in the hour of trial: yea, our Lord himself forewarned his disciples that they would forsake him, and thereby fulfil the prophecy in our text [Note: Matthew 26:31.]: and the event, alas! corresponded with these predictions: the “Shepherd being smitten, the sheep were immediately scattered abroad;” “they all forsook him and fled [Note: Matthew 26:56.].” What a poignancy must this circumstance have given to all the other wounds inflicted on our Lord! Where were all the myriads whom he had miraculously healed? Where were those whom he had raised from the dead? Were they all afraid to own him? Was not so much as one found to stand forth in his defence, or even to speak a word in his behalf? No: all were panic-struck and mute. Hear how our blessed Lord himself complains of this, as a bitter aggravation of his sorrows [Note: Psalms 69:20; Psalms 142:4.] — — — But utter dereliction, unmitigated sorrows, were our desert; and he, as our substitute, endured it all in our behalf.]
The ultimate effect was their restoration and recovery—
[This is intimated in the last clause of our text. By “turning his hand upon his little ones,” is meant, that he would accomplish upon them all his merciful designs, recovering them from their fears, and restoring them to the Divine favour [Note: Compare Isaiah 1:25.]. This he did as soon as ever he was risen from the dead: he did not even except Peter, who had so shamefully denied him with oaths and curses [Note: Mark 16:7. John 20:17.]. On the day of Pentecost he so “strengthened his little ones,” that they were henceforth no more intimidated, but boldly confessed him before all the rulers of their nation, and braved death in all its most tremendous forms, for the honour of his name. Similar effects were instantly produced on thousands of his followers: and to this hour is the same divine energy communicated to the feeblest of his people: though but “a little flock,” they fear not the threats of any adversaries, because they know that it “is the Father’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom;” and, that they shall be “more than conquerors through Him that loved them.”
Such were intended to be the effects of our Redeemer’s death: “He suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God:” and to God he will bring us; so that “of those whom the Father hath given him, not one shall be lost.”]
Let us take occasion from this prophecy,
To admire the love of God the Father—
[When God called to his sword to “awake and smite,” whom should we suppose to be the objects of his vengeance? Should we not conclude of course that we were to be the monuments of his wrath? we, towards whom he had so long exercised forbearance, and who had so obstinately persisted in our rebellion? Yes, methinks God would say, “Sword, go and smite those my incorrigible enemies; go and smite them to their inmost soul.” But, behold, he sends his Son, “his fellow,” and directs the sword to execute vengeance upon him, as our substitute! We wonder not so much that the Jews should cry out, “Spare not this man, but Barabbas:” but that Jehovah should give his direction to his sword, “Spare not my dear Son, my fellow, but Barabbas,” is truly wonderful. Yet this, in effect, he did say: ‘Spare the vilest of the human race, even though they be robbers and murderers; but “smite my Son, my fellow,” and spare not him, in order that thou mayest spare them.’ O wondrous love! Who can estimate it? What tongue can utter it? What imagination can conceive it? Well is it said, “God so loved the world, as to give his only-begotten Son:” but the heights and depths of that love are unsearchable, either by men or angels.]
To follow the steps of the good Shepherd—
[Jesus, Jehovah’s fellow, is our shepherd; and we, as sheep of his pasture, are under his protection. Let us then, however weak in ourselves, despise the threats of all our enemies. Let us never for a moment indulge the fear of man, or entertain a thought of forsaking him who has laid down his life for us. Let us consider our obligations to him: let us consider them, till we feel our whole souls inflamed with love to him; and, under the constraining influence of his love, let us “follow him without the camp, bearing his reproach,” and “rejoicing, if we are counted worthy to suffer shame, or even death itself, for his sake.” Let us “know in whom we have believed;” and say with David, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want;” nor “will I fear what man can do unto me.”]
To seek the effectual influence of his grace—
[What shall we not be able to do, if “he turn his hand upon us for good?” Could Paul say, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthened me?” so then may we say. He was by nature no stronger than the weakest amongst us: and the weakest of us, by grace, may be as strong as he: “Christ’s strength shall be perfected in our weakness,” as it was in his. Let our eyes then be unto Jesus; that, as he has been “the author, so also he may be the finisher, of our faith.” Let our expectations from him be enlarged: and, whatever our difficulties be, let us remember, that “our Redeemer is mighty,” is almighty; and that he has pledged himself to us, that “none shall ever pluck us out of his hands.”]
GOD’S METHOD OF DEALING WITH HIS PEOPLE
Zechariah 13:9. I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, it is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God.
AFFLICTION is the lot of mankind in general, and more especially of those who fear the Lord, who are all, in their measure, “predestinated to he conformed to the image of Christ,” as well in sufferings as in glory. In the context we are told what Christ would have to endure when once he should become incarnate; “Awake, O my sword, against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the shepherd.” It is true, that Christ was to make satisfaction for sin by his sufferings and death; and in that view there is no occasion for us to “drink of his cup:” but it is true also that “he learned obedience, and was made perfect, by the things which he suffered;” and these ends are no less necessary to be accomplished in us; nor can they be effected in any better way. On this account God has determined to “bring the third part through the fire;” that so he may fit them for the fuller enjoyment of himself, both in this world and the world to come.
The text informs us how God deals with his people,
In respect of trials—
he people of God are but a small remnant—
[Perhaps the text may refer to that period when the Christian Church was to be delivered from the destruction which was coming on the Jewish nation. At that time they were very numerous in Judζa, and might, in general terms, be represented as a “third part.” But in every age and place they have been comparatively a “little flock,” or, as the Apostle calls them, “a remnant according to the election of grace.” Even in one of the most distinguished Churches in the apostolic age we read that there were “but few who had kept their garments undefiled:” and, if those who bear the Christian name at this day were tried by the standard of God’s word, the number of true disciples would be found very disproportioned to the collective body.]
But, whether few or many, they are all “brought to God through the fire”—
[It is no uncommon thing for persons to receive their first serious impressions by means of some afflictive dispensation: many must say with David, “Before I was afflicted I went astray.” But, in whatever way they are converted to God, they seldom continue long in his service without experiencing some temporal or spiritual affliction. God, who is a wise physician, knows what is most conducive to the health of our souls. He sees that there is much “folly bound up in our hearts, and that nothing but the rod of correction can effectually drive it out.” He sees it necessary “to try us, as gold, and to purify us as silver,” that we may both manifest what we are, and become what we should be. If we be only superficial Christians, who, like “the stony-ground hearers, have no root in ourselves,” we shall “be offended as soon as tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word:” but if we be “Israelites indeed,” the trial of our faith, which is much more precious than gold, which, though it stand the trial of fire, yet perisheth at last, will be found to praise, and honour, and glory in the day of his appearing [Note: 1 Peter 4:12; 1 Peter 1:6-7.].” Besides, the very best have much amiss within them, which escapes their notice, till “God counsels them in the night season” of affliction, and discovers to them the hidden abominations of their hearts. On this account especially the saints have testified with one consent that they have found it “good to be afflicted;” and have seen reason to bless God more for their heaviest trials, than for their richest comforts.]
That their trials, however, are not unmixed, will appear by considering how God deals with them,
In respect of enjoyments—
If the Christian has much “bitterness of heart,” with which others are unacquainted, so has he also much “joy, with which a stranger intermeddleth not.” He enjoys,
Communion with God—
[Before he was converted he knew nothing of fellowship with a reconciled God and Father. He performed perhaps many outward acts of worship, but never prayed from his inmost soul. He felt not the greatness of his wants; he knew not the excellency of spiritual attainments: he was not persuaded of the efficacy of prayer: no wonder therefore that he never cried to God in earnest, and consequently, that he never obtained an answer to his prayer. Not even Paul himself, notwithstanding all his zeal, had ever prayed aright, till Christ appeared to him in his way to Damascus [Note: Acts 9:11.]. But the true Christian is enabled to “pour out his soul before God:” and to him is that promise fulfilled: “Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear [Note: Isaiah 65:24.].” Often does he go to God weak, weary, or disconsolate, and return from a throne of grace strengthened with might, and filled with peace and joy.
Nor is this happy state a little promoted by his trials. When he is long at ease, he is too apt to relax his exertions, and to rest in a cold and carnal frame: but afflictions drive him to his God, and necessitate him to wrestle in prayer till he obtains the desired aid [Note: Genesis 32:24-26.].]
Confidence before God—
[God is unspeakably gracious to the soul that seeks him. He will not only answer the prayers of his people, but will “shed abroad his love in their hearts,” and give them such tokens of acceptance with him, as, in effect, to say to them, “Thou art mine.” He will “seal them with the Holy Spirit of promise,” and set his mark upon them in such a manner, that they themselves may know their relation to him. Moreover, by these manifestations of his favour he will embolden them to claim him as their God. Like the Church of old they shall make their boast of him; “My beloved is mine, and I am his,” “This God is my God for ever and ever [Note: Song of Solomon 2:16. Psalms 48:14.].”
This assurance too, no less than their fellowship with God, is advanced by means of afflictive dispensations. Their tribulation makes them apply to God for patience; the acquisition of patience gives them an experience of his truth and faithfulness; and this experience begets a lively hope [Note: Romans 5:3-4.], yea, oftentimes an unshaken confidence in God, which is as “an anchor of their souls both sure and steadfast.”]
Those who are but little conversant with trials—
[Doubtless it is a mercy to be free from troubles, because “they are not joyous at the present, but grievous.” But what do you find to have been the effect of this exemption? Have you not, like Jeshurun, “waxed fat and kicked?” “When you have eaten and been filled, have you not forgotten the Lord your God [Note: Deuteronomy 8:10-14; Deuteronomy 32:15.]?” Do you not find that your corruptions are unmortified? Are you not conscious that you have never yet experienced that exalted state of communion with God, and of confidence before him, which it is both your privilege and your duty to enjoy? Guard then against these pernicious effects of ease; for the prosperity of fools, as we are told, will destroy them [Note: Proverbs 1:32.]. Let the attainment of a holy and heavenly frame be desired by you far more than any temporal comfort. In a little time all present things, whether pleasing or painful, will come to an end: and then they only will be found happy, who sought an interest in Christ, and “had the Lord for their God [Note: Psalms 144:15.].”]
Those who are “tossed with tempests and not comforted”—
[Though God brings his dearest children into the fire, he does not leave them there; he engages to bring them “through” it. While they are yet in it, he will be with them, that they may not be burned [Note: Isaiah 43:2.]: yea, “he will sit by them as a refiner and purifier of silver,” to watch the process which he has ordained for their good [Note: Malachi 3:3.]. He knows what heat is requisite for the accomplishment of his gracious purposes; and, when their dross is purged out, he will bring them forth as “vessels of honour meet for their Master’s use [Note: Job 23:10.].” Be patient then under your trials, knowing from whom they proceed, and for what blessed ends he has appointed them: and be rather solicitous to have your troubles sanctified than removed. Only let them drive you to a throne of grace, and not, as they too often do, discourage you from drawing nigh to God. Let them make you more earnest in seeking an assured confidence in his love, and an increasing meetness for his glory. Then shall you in due time be numbered with those blessed spirits, “who came out of great tribulation, and made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.” Nor need you fear but that the “eternal weight of glory” which you shall possess, shall abundantly compensate “the light and momentary afflictions” which you endured in the way to it.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Zechariah 13". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30