13 December 2012Zechariah 13:1-9
"To cleanse them from sin and impurity" (v. 1)
In common with his fellow prophets, Zechariah is looking forward to a new golden age, in which God's promises to God's own people are fulfilled. Whilst the second part of the book focuses on the coming of the Messiah, there is still space for some chastening words. And this passage is one of them.
Cleansing from sin is one of the provisions of the new covenant brought about by the coming of the Messiah (Jeremiah 31:34), and Zechariah uses two images for this - water from a fountain (verse 1) and a refining fire (verse 8).
It is interesting how these two things are so powerful and have the strength to wreak such damage, yet here is they are used for such a positive purpose.
And in the middle of this passage there is the reference to a shepherd. Zechariah has already made reference to shepherds in chapter 11, drawing attention to the rulers of the people who act as bad shepherds (see Zechariah 11:8). In John's Gospel Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14). Whilst we can begin to grasp what Jesus is saying, how much more powerful would these words be to the people who first heard them. His words are almost a direct contrast to Zechariah 11:16.
Despite all that will happen and all the trials and tribulations that God's own people may undergo, there still remains the underlying promise of God - "they will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God'" (v. 9).
- Water and fire can have destructive qualities. Yet they can cleanse and refine. How have powerful events and experiences made you stronger and deepened your faith?
- They are good shepherds and bad shepherds. How do you like to be shepherded? Are you a good shepherd when it comes to caring for others?
- "They will call on my name and I will answer them." How prepared are you to call on God's name? And what sort of answer do you hope (or expect) to receive?