The Prophecy of Zechariah: Purification of Jerusalem

2. And it shall be in that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols of the land, and they shall be remembered no more; and also the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness, will I cause to pass out of the land. 3. And it shall be, if a man still prophesy, his father and his mother; who begat him, shall say to him, Thou shalt not live, for thou hast spoken a lie in the name of Jehovah; and his fatther and his mother, who begat him, shall pierce him through in his prophesying. 4. And it shall be in that day that the prophets shall be ashamed each of his vision in his prophesying; and shall no more put on, a hairy garment to lie; 5. but he shell say, I am not a prophet, I am a husbandman, for a man bought me from my youth. 6. And (the other) shall say unto him, What are these wounds between thine hands? And he shall say, Those with which I was wounded in the home of my lovers

1. Regard must once more be had to the promise of this text that in that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. This fountain is the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is accordingly the death-devouring life- of Christ. It. is His cleansing holiness. It is His guilt-canceling satisfaction and righteousness. It is faith, living and indestructible faith. It is the hope that maketh not ashamed. It is the love that God sheds abroad in the hearts of His people. It is life everlasting. This fountain, in a word, is the total of blessings of Christ’s cross. Salvation is a fountain because like a fountain of water it springs up unceasingly and tirelessly from God its eternal source. And. springing up from Him the overflowing fountain of all good, it flows into the church through Christ the Channel of all grace. 

This fountain was always there, only, it had to be opened. It was opened when Christ assumed the flesh and blood of His brethren. It was opened When, as the incarnate Son of God, He suffered and died for the sin of those given Him of the Father; was raised on account of their justification, was exalted at the right hand of the throne and received the promise of the Spirit, which He poured upon the church, the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem set with Him in heaven. That was for us the opening of the fountain for sin and uncleanness; And as all the blessings of the cross, and other blessings there are not, are contained in Christ because. He merited them by His suffering and death, as, in other words, He of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, drinking at this fountain consists in eating His flesh and drinking His blood. It consists, in other words, in believing in Him and through Him in God the fountain of all our salvation. And whosoever believes in Him, drinks at this fountain the water that Christ shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that Christ shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 

2. The Lord will not alone purge His people .from all sin and uncleanness by the fountain that will be opened, but He will purge the land of all idols as well. The idol is a not-god. The idol is a lie. For the idol is the true God drawn down to the level of the corruptible creature. Idolatry, therefore, is more than the denial of God. It is vesting God with all the vices and limitations of the corruptible creature. In the words of the apostle, it is changing the glories, virtues, perfections of the uncorruptible God into an image made-like to the corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Conceptionally, all the virtues of God are changed into their opposites. God, all that may be known of God by the creation of the universe and by the Scriptures, is changed into the creature and is still called God. And the creature is worshipped under the pretence or in the imagining that the object of worship is God. The idolater does not admit that the god before whom he bends the knee is an idol, a creature, a not-god, according to the Scriptures, a devil-god, a fabrication, a god that he makes unto himself according to the desire of his own corrupt heart. But that it is the creature that is being worshipped is plain from the fact that the graven image, the idol of wood and stone before which the idolater comes in the dust, is made of him to bear the image of some creature. 

In the light of these remarks, it is plain wherein idolatry essentially consists. It consists, surely, in conceiving of God in terms of the vile creature and in the deification and worship of this conception. If this is idolatry essentially, then it is plain that idolatry still abounds, however true it may be that in this age of culture and scientific achievement men are not literally sacrificing and burning intense to dumb idols. 

The Scriptures over and over hold up man’s idols, the graven images worshipped and the devil-gods represented and symbolized thereby, as object for ridicule. “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not. They have ears but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not. They have hands, but they handle not; feet have they, but they do not walk; neither speak they through their throat.” Yet it is in these-dumb things, the graven image as well as the creature represented, the devil-god symbolized, that the idolater puts all, his confidence; strange as this may be. “And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image; he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.” 

In the light of what is presented above, it is plain that idolatry is but another name for heresy, false doctrine. Idolatry is the love and worship of godless thoughts about God. But God will cut off the names of the idols from the land and from the whole earth, and they shall be remembered no more. He will cleanse the earth of all wrong thoughts about God. And the lie will be no more. In its place will be truth in the inward parts, right knowledge of God. And it will cover the whole earth as the waters cover the bottom of the sea. And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest. Such is here the promise. 

Also the prophets the Lord will cause to pass out of the land. The context makes it clear that the reference is to the entire prophetic order of the old dispensation and not alone to the false prophets of this age. The promise is made because there will be no more need of such prophets, seeing that the people of God will reach a perfect knowledge of him.Joel 2:28-31 expresses the same expectation, to wit, that it will come to pass afterward that the Lord will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, and that their sons and their daughters will prophesy. And their old men will dream dreams, and their young men will see visions. And also upon His servants and upon His handmaids will the Lord pour out His Spirit. The hope of Joel interprets this passage. All the people will be blessed with prophetic vision. All will prophesy. For all will have the anointing, and the anointing which they will receive will abide in them, and they will not need that any man teach them. The special class of prophets will therefore be removed. 

Further, in that day the Lord will cause to pass out of the land the spirit of uncleanness, that is, the unclean spirits from the abyss operative in the false “prophets and these prophets themselves together with all the wicked, the worshippers of idols. 

Such is the condition that will prevail “in that day.” How God’s people, the anointed ones, will love the truth in that day, how completely consecrated they will be to the cause of God, how intolerant of false prophets, how intensely the most intimate blood relations will be hated for Christ’s sake in that day, is revealed in subsequent verses. 

3. The man of this verse speaks in the name of the Lord. Yet he speaks not the word of the Lord but his own word, which is therefore the lie, heresy. And though the Spirit has been poured out the man still thinks it safe for him to prophesy. Is he not sent of the Lord? And does he not speak His word? And his doctrine is not new. It’s the old time Gospel that he brings. So he says. But God’s people are not deceived. For they too, have now the Gospel. It has been fully revealed, communicated to the church by the Lord speaking through the prophets and the apostles as His organs of special revelation. All know now. For all are in the possession of the whole counsel of God regarding the salvation of the elect. All have the anointing and by this anointing all are being led into all truth. God’s people, therefore, these anointed ones, clearly perceive that the man speaks lies. To these anointed ones belong also the parents of the man, his father and mother who begot him. And they say to the man, their very own flesh and blood, “Thou shalt not live, for thou hast spoken a lie in the name of Jehovah.” And they pierce him through in his prophesying, that is immediately, without any delay. And this father and mother must not be taken as lone exceptions. So deal all the parents, the anointed ones, with their sons and daughters that speak lies in the name of Jehovah. They shew them no mercy but pierce them through. For all are consumed by this same terrible zeal of God’s house. For the heretic there is no place in the church anywhere. 

4-6. Owing to this zeal, all those in the church suspected of being false prophets still, because in the past they were known to have spoken lies in the name of the Lord, now live in perpetual fear for their very lives. No longer, therefore, do they prophesy. In the words of this verse 4, they are now ashamed each of his vision in their prophesying. And they do all they can to dispel the cloud of suspicion that hangs over them. In that day the hairy garment was the garb of the prophet. Such mantle was worn by Elijah and by John the Baptist. The false prophets of this verse used to wear this garment to speak lies. Though spokesmen of the devil, they wanted the people to believe that they were true prophets of God speaking His word. To achieve their purpose they wore the hairy mantle. But now they are careful to be seen in it no longer. And they choose another occupation. They acquire a farm and go to tilling the soil. And when questioned by God’s people, who have a clear recollection of their former evil practice, they say, Why no, I am not a prophet, I am a husbandman, a farmer. And I never was a prophet, but I have always been a farmer. I learnt farming in my youth from a man who bought me. And I have been a farmer ever since. So they all answer, in this vein, though not always in exactly these words. But what we have here in verses 5 and 6 are the exact words of one of their number interrogated. He, too, is saying that he is a farmer and not a prophet. But the man lies. He is a prophet of Baal even. And being such a prophet he was praying one day in Baal’s temple. And in his frenzy he cut the palms of his hands with a knife—as all these prophets were wont to do—in the hope that as moved by pity his god would hearken to his cry. How otherwise explain those ugly scars between his hands. What are those wounds between thy hands, he is asked. He has the answer. He was in the house of friends one day. And they quarreled. And there was a fight. And in that fight his hands were cut. Whether the one who questions this man leaves it go at this, is not stated. Perhaps not. It is likely that it must be supposed that the man is pierced through. For instead of confessing his great sin and vowing that he has forsaken it, he tries to cover up his evil doing. He is still the false prophet of yore. If allowed to live, he would continue to be a corrupting influence in the land. And, therefore, he is put to death as are all his spiritual kin.

Such then will be the zeal of the church in that day. The false prophets in the land will be killed. So the Lord had commanded ages ago by Moses as His organ. The commandment reads: If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou nor thy fathers; namely of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shalt thy eyes pity him, but thou shalt surely kill him; thine eyes shalt be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he has sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear and fear and shall not do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.

Such was the commandment. The idolaters and false teachers in Israel had to be put to death and thereby cut off from the congregation of the Lord, the holy land, the land of the (spiritual) living, the kingdom of God. And the parents of such persons had to take the lead in the killing of them. This may be considered as one of the reasons why it was rarely done. Natural love of the brother, son, daughter, bosom friend, the beloved wife was too overpowering. What could be more painful and agonizing to an Israelite than putting to death, a heretic, if such a person happened to be his own son or daughter, father or mother, intimate friend? Rather than kill his own son, however ill-deserving, he would gladly die in his stead. 

As to the commandment cited above, it is still valid surely. Only the church is not literally killing the heretic today, but slaying him by the Word of God and thereby cutting him off from the church, excommunicating him from fellowship with Christ, and the holy sacraments, and from all the spiritual blessing and benefits, which God promises to and bestows upon His church, so long as he obstinately and impenitently persists in his sins. What then can be more painful to the believer, more terrible, more soul disturbing than excommunicating a heretic, a false prophet; if such a one happens to be his own flesh and blood, or husband or wife or bosom friend? That man, believer, has great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart, as was the case with the apostle. And he could wish, as the apostle could wish, that himself were accursed from Christ for his son or daughter or brother according to the flesh. Such is the strength of the devotion of natural love, such the binding power of the ties of blood. Unless sanctified by the redeeming grace of Christ, natural love, pity, compassion is a thoroughly foul thing and nothing but a handicap in the service of God. What grace it requires to crucify this love and turn a deaf ear to its demands and groanings whenever a choice must be made between Christ on the one hand and the son, daughter, friend on the other; whenever these persons, because they have come to stand between Christ and the believer, must be hated for Christ’s sake. One thing is certain, the amazing zeal that characterizes the parents of the verses with which we now deal is as yet not ours, however spiritual we may be and however strong our faith and however, consecrated we may be to the cause of God. It is not yet ours except in principle. But it one day will be ours. For such is here the promise. But the promise as yet has not been fully fulfilled. And it will not be fully fulfilled until in the hour of death and through death the earthy house of this our tabernacle is dissolved and we have a building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, and when Christ shall have raised us up in the last day. When this shall have come to pass, God’s people will not any longer be bearing the image of the earthy as used to be the case, but the image of the heavenly with all the, ties that bound them to this earthy severed. Raised up unto everlasting life, they will sit with Christ in judgment over the world. And every man of them will pierce through his brother, and every man his friend and every man his neighbor,—the friend and brother and neighbor and son and daughter that perished in their sins. For as they bear the image of the heavenly and their love being now perfected, they no longer know any man according to the flesh. For flesh and blood and the natural love and affection of which they were the seat are no more. They have perished. For the kingdom is not inherited by flesh and blood. 

Some additional remarks.

2. The announcement in this verse of the removal of the prophets—the prophetic order of the old dispensation—is surely not in conflict with the good tiding in Eph. 4:11, 12 that Christ exalted gave pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edification of the body of Christ, which is the church. The prophets, including the twelve apostles, were agents of special revelation through whom God communicated to the church the whole counsel regarding the salvation of His people. When at the death of the last apostle this counsel had been fully revealed, the prophets and the apostles alike had served their purpose and their office ceased, never to be revived. For the church was now in the possession of the full Gospel of God. But through the ages to come this Gospel had still to be proclaimed. It had to be ministered to the church according as from time to time the needs of God’s believing people would dictate. And it had to be vindicated against all heresy. And for the performance of this task Christ gave pastors and teachers, instituted in his church the teaching ministry, be it that essentially God’s people no longer have need that any man teach them, seeing that all now have the anointing. 

3. This is the verse that makes mention of the false prophet pierced through by his own father and mother. The great sin of this man was that he spoke his lies in the name of the Lord. As the true prophets of God used to do, he prefaced all his discourses by the formula, “Thus saith the Lord,” and thereby laid claim to divine authority for his false teachings. Thus though a prophet of the devil, he posed as the spokesman of God with communications from heaven by which God’s people could come only through him. 

5, 6. Of the Baal prophet of these verses it is stated that he was wounded between his hands, which may just as well mean that his whole body in various places was badly cut, particularly his shoulders and chest.