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I T has been said that a true prophet is a man with his feet on the ground and his head in the clouds: one who is both a man of the people and a man of God, declaring to his fellow-sinners the things that belong to their peace. Such was Zechariah, who encouraged the Jews to begin the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. (Ezra 5:1-2). What the angel first showed him in vision he was to see with his own eyes as God's holy and beautiful house was completed, the centre of Israel's worship once again.
Zechariah saw something far more wonderful than a building. What can a building, even the most ornate, do for needy sinners? The temple had been ruined and would be torn down again. Like all true Jews, whose circumcision is of the heart, the prophet's hope did not rest in a ritual, in a multitude of sacrifices, in the blood of bulls and goats. The eyes of his understanding were opened and he gazed down through time to a different temple altogether, one not made with human hands. A temple designed for all the true worshippers who have ever lived. A temple that men would seek to destroy but could not.
What did Zechariah see in his vision? What do all believers see by faith, such that they cry out, "The Lord is my God" (Zech. 13:9)? Evidently something that stirs the heart, excites the affections and moves the will to make free choice of the living and true God as one's portion. That is not the natural choice of men; sin is our choice and we spend our days fleeing from God. How great a change then occurs in those who do draw near to the Lord!
In the tabernacle there was a brass laver or washing-basin standing between the door and the altar; it held water in which the priests were to wash before offering sacrifice (Exod. 30:18-20). By external cleansing they were made ceremonially fit for the service of the earthly sanctuary; without this they were threatened with death (v.21.) For the temple a laver of much greater size was cast. It rested upon twelve brazen oxen looking outward to each corner of the world (2 Chron. 4:1-4). But the prophet saw beyond these symbols of his own day to the blessed reality. He saw a fountain in which all men must wash if they would escape everlasting death.
The man of God sees the Messiah entering Jerusalem: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion...thy King cometh unto thee" (Zech. 9:9.) What would the Jews do with their King? They would crucify Him; "and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced" (12:10.) Jehovah pierced by the people: how could this be?
Here is the sublime mystery of Jesus Christ, that He is God manifest in the flesh. How else could the Most High refer to Him as His "fellow" or equal? "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow..." (13:7). In the foreground are wicked men with their wicked hands nailing the Lord of glory to a tree in their ignorance. In the background Zechariah sees the righteous hand of an all-holy God wielding the sword of justice against His darling Son. He has no sins of His own and therefore justice has no natural quarrel with Him. The sword is lying in its scabbard. It has to be called upon to awake and to do its awful deed. "Smite the shepherd"!
What is happening? The Shepherd is dying for the sheep, bearing their sins. His holy soul is consumed by divine wrath as He is punished in their place. His precious blood drops to the earth, the satisfaction of divine justice and the provision of mercy. It is the fulfilment of the whole ceremonial law, substance replacing shadow. In this way a great fountain was thrown open for a guilty world (13:1.)
The death of Jesus is truly a fountain of life. "For with thee is the fountain of life" (Psa. 36:9). Because He is man Christ could be placed under the law to keep its precepts and suffer its penalty, to provide a perfect righteousness for sinners. Because He is God His obedience in life and death has infinite value and virtue. In the Mediator God has opened up a channel through which His life-giving mercy and grace can flow to the guilty and condemned sons of Adam with no detriment to His strict justice.
The righteousness of Christ is life to believers in the legal sense, "justification of life" (Rom. 5:18). It is also the basis upon which God creates in them a new heart, that they should walk in newness of life. There is refreshment and reviving for the weary soul as well as cleansing. "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God" (Psa. 46:4). The electing love of the Father, the redeeming blood of the Son, the sanctifying power of the Spirit, these "streams" flowing together out of the heart of God and into our hearts bring us joy as we know them. Truly Jesus could say, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10). This fountain was opened in God's account in eternity and will never be sealed again: it shall never run dry however long time shall last.
How can this fountain avail for us? God lays his finger upon our plight. It is twofold. There is "sin" and there is "uncleanness" (Zech. 13:1). We have inherited moral guilt and moral pollution, we have a bad record and a bad heart. To sin is to miss the mark, to fail to come up to the standard that God has set for us in His holy law. It is to contract guilt before Him and to render ourselves liable to punishment. We are guilty of Adam's original sin and of the many actual sins we have added to it. We are also "unclean", filthy or impure. Leprosy was a tragic type of this spiritual separation from God (Lev. 13:45-46). Our whole natures have become corrupt through sin: "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it" (Isa. 1:6).
Is there a remedy for such a helpless condition? Yes! By this fountain which the Lord has opened there is a full pardon and cleansing. Deliverance from the penalty of sin and also its power. In justification our legal debts are cancelled and our guilt removed as the blood of atonement is applied to us and we rest upon Christ and His righteousness (Rom. 3:25). In regeneration the reigning power of sin is broken and it shall not have dominion over us again (Rom. 6:13-14). In sanctification the pollution of sin is progressively removed (2 Cor. 7:1). In glorification the very presence of sin is gone out of our hearts (Heb. 12:23). Christ's blood "cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). How much we need the "washing of re-generation and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Tit. 3:5) to work in us faith in Jesus Christ! This alone will make us acceptable to God.
The fountain the prophet saw was promised to the "house" of David. When God applies His redemption to us He creates in us His own likeness. Believers are the spiritual seed of Christ, promised to Him in the covenant of redemption (Psa. 22:30). Are we showing the family-likeness of God's own children? Do we resemble the Son of David in His holy character? Then we surely have been washed in the fountain. May we never forsake our God "the fountain of living waters" (Jer. 2:13).
The fountain is also for the "inhabitants" of Jerusalem, those who truly abide in Zion. The blood of Christ will do no good to those who are indifferent to the gospel, who merely "pass by" this way from time to time. Are you without Christ? Then know that God is "the rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6). Pray penitently with David, "blot out all mine iniquities" and "create in me a clean heart" (Psa. 51:9-10). Wash away your sins in the fountain of life, by calling on the name of the Lord.