THE BOOK OF ZECHARIAH
The War Against False Prophets
Zechariah 13 5/15/11 SCC
Wherever there is truth inevitably there will be error. False teaching becomes false by using some of the truth and mixing it with lies. There is enough truth to sound plausible and enough error to get one off track. There is enough truth to make it believable but enough error to make it a falsehood. Eventually, one will believe blatant falsehood if they continue under the dominance of deceitful teaching. For instance, the doctrine of a conscious eternal punishment in the hell of the Lake of Fire can be turned into annihilationism, with some of the truth of punishment but the error that it is not eternal and conscious; to the concept of accomodationism, with the error of only a hell we create here on earth by our hubris and no afterlife hell; to the belief in universalism with the blatant error that everyone will be saved after death and no mention of a hell at all! God’s people must recover from false teaching by repenting and recovering God’s truth once again to escape the consequences of unbelief and deception and restore fellowship with the Lord again. Israel’s lamentation of repentance in the previous chapter will turn into forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration, from and with the Lord in their end time future.
REPENTANCE FOR CLEANSING IS ALWAYS THE PATH TO FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD 1-6
In this case we can determine that what is true for all time for all of God’s people will also be true in the end-time for the remaining remnant of Israel. “In that day” the cleansing we observe here has to do with a final work of God specifically for His elect people of Israel.
Forgiveness follows repentance 1
Restoration to God and fellowship with God is not based on any whimsical ideas we conjure up. It is based solely on a lifestyle of repentance. We do not have the luxury nor the right of telling God what and how we can have fellowship with Him. He tells us. Our sins must be forgiven. This cleansing is described in the metaphor of a fountain. This is a fountain that opens up or gushes forth to provide cleansing for two groups; (1) the house of David (the shepherds—kings and prophets) and (2) the inhabitants of Jerusalem. These are the two groups identified in 12:10. The recipients of this fountain cleansing are pinpointed. These two groups have been belligerent toward God since the birth of this elect people and nation. In particular this cleansing will remove ‘sin’ and ‘impurity’. The sin is their willful rebellion of the Divine will for them and the impurity is the personal and spiritual condition resulting from that willful rebellion. It is significant that this fountain cleansing follows their facing up to God as the one they have wounded and then repent sincerely of their wickedness before it is opened up to them.
God does surgery 2
Full restoration includes removing all of the habits and practices and attitudes that occasioned the interruption of fellowship with God in the first place. Specifically ‘in that day’ God will do surgery on the people. He will ‘cut off’ the names of the idols in the land. So thorough will this surgery be that not only are the names cut off they will not even be remembered buy the people ever again. No chance of the cancer ever returning. Again and again Israel had broken the covenant with God but now God will cut off all opportunity for idol worship in their future. But the main focus will be the ‘removal’ of the unclean prophets from the land. These are ones that have spoken falsely in God’s name and unclean in sense that they have a demonically inspired message—one that contrasts with God’s. This unclean spirit has inspired false prophets who prophesy lies in God’s name. They will finally and completely be banished.
The death penalty 3
If any false prophets persist in prophesying the penalty of the Mosaic Law will be resurrected and brought to bear upon the offender. This will be controlled by the death penalty (Deut 13:6-11; 18:20-22). His parents must slay him by piercing him through. There is no reason to paint this as figurative language. The context makes the literalness of this clear. The point is that restoration and forgiveness means going to war against false teaching not tolerating or making peace with false teachers or religions. The reason is the reality of the spiritual warfare behind their deception.
An attempt at denial 4-6
“In that day” the result of such exposure and then the application of the death penalty will motivate these charlatan prophets to deny their involvement in deception and lies. They will be ashamed of their visions and will cast aside the clothing customarily worn in their profession v 4. You will remember that prophets like Elijah (1 Kings 19:19) and John the Baptist (Matt 3:4) wore hairy cloaks. The false prophets of the age to come—which tells us that in every age until the end there will be false ones—will stop simulating true prophets to deceive those who heard them. Now they will attempt to conceal that they were prophets at all since the risk of exposure is great. Further, they will verbally affirm that he is no prophet v 5. He will assert farming as a slave for cover. He will protest “I have been doing this from childhood!”
The charade is unconvincing 6
Those who know him better will ask ‘if you are no prophet can you explain those wounds on your chest?’ The
answer is only a feeble lie ‘I got then at a friends house.’ So without the trappings of a prophet these wounds can still identify him. Most likely these are incisions are related to self-lacerations from rituals to the false gods to induce them to action like Baal’s false prophets with Elijah in 1 Kgs 18:28. These marks are so typical of those of the prophets that they are a dead giveaway and betray him. His excuse of getting them in a brawl at a friend’s house convinces no one.
LESSON: The most significant issue between God and His people is sin! Willful rebellion against God’s revealed will cannot go unaccounted for. We must be alert to false teaching which as we have seen can give us what we want to hear and not what we need to hear. False teaching is pervasive and the only remedy is to know the Word of God and guard your heart against a spirit if rebellion.
GOD TESTS HIS FAITHFUL PEOPLE 7-9
God’s sword 7
Notice that God is the One who wakes up the sword against ‘My shepherd’. In the context we have learned that the shepherds of Israel referred to her kings. It is their turn to be censored for their faithless leadership of the people. Here ‘My shepherd’ suggests a close relationship also described as ‘My associate’. So the command to strike this very close one so the flock may be scattered is filled with significance. In the last day God will turn his hand against these little ones for they too stand condemned with the shepherds. The leaders and their sheep will both suffer the blow of God’s righteous indignation. This is a clear indictment of Israel’s leadership—her priestly, prophetic, and royal leadership. This verse is quoted in Mark 14:27 speaking of the killing of the Messiah that results in the scattering of the Jews. The distant meaning in Mark describes the scattering of His disciples and so this verse alludes to that time as well.
God’s purging 8-9
We learn that the scattering of the sheep far from being an accidental consequence of the striking of the shepherd is in fact for the purpose of ridding the flock of elements that must be purged from her. Notice that two thirds of the people will perish and one third will be left in the land. So Zechariah goes from the crucifixion, the slaying of His Shepherd, to the Tribulation. The Old Testament prophets know nothing of the church age in which we live. The church is between verse 7 and verse 8 and never mentioned. But testing v 9 refines this one third. They are brought through a refining process designed to equip them to have minds and hearts that are open and responsive to God’s sovereign claim upon them. Just as the current remnant of exiles have been refined and purified through their exile in Babylon and have returned repentant and responsive to God it will not last. When Jesus is among them then utterly reject Christ as Messiah the Son of God 500 years later. Demonstrating the same rebellious spirit and propensity to reject and spurn God’s Word Jesus prophesies their demise and they are scattered by the scourge of Rome. Not until the 20th century is there a presence of Jews back in the land. This group will be persecuted, and killed, a third remaining who will, also in a sort of future exile din the Tribulation, will repent and become the true people of God again! But not until they pass through the purging fire of the Tribulation. When they do the results will be: (1) they call upon God’s name (2) God will answer them (3) God will say they are His people (4) the people will say God is their God.
LESSON: There is something you should know about God. The people of God are always brought through fire, tested and then refined. He tests His faithful people. James says God does so to demonstrate and develop our faith (James 1:2-4). How does God do this? By bringing his people to the edge, then seemingly over the edge, where there is no return, no rescue, no reasonable hope. Then in the midst of what would appear to be a situation of despair, at the last minute, God delivers. He did so with Joseph and Mary’s pregnancy. He did so with Abe and Isaac’s altar. He did so with Job and Satan. He will do so in Israel during the Tribulation. He is doing so in your life through your difficulties and hardships.
It is a maxim as well as goes the leadership so goes the people. The people, staying under false teaching and deceptive leadership, are culpable for doing so. We have the obligation to tell people to run away form false teaching as fast as they can and as far as possible. Otherwise they too will be accountable for the damnable consequences of such teaching in their own lives and before almighty God.