Israel’s Conversion

10"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 11On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, 13the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, 14and all the rest of the clans and their wives.

13:1"On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

2"On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more," declares the Lord Almighty. "I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land. 3And if anyone still prophesies, his father and mother, to whom he was born, will say to him, ‘You must die, because you have told lies in the Lord’s name.’ When he prophesies, his own parents will stab him.

4"On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his prophetic vision. He will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair in order to deceive. 5He will say, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth.’ 6If someone asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ he will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’"

"In the remainder of Zechariah 12, the prophet sets forth, as nowhere else in Scripture with such vividness and power, the conversion of Israel to the Lord… In that coming day of Israel’s national atonement, the Lord will pour upon the royal house and all who dwell in Jerusalem, then throughout the whole nation, the spirit of grace and supplication" [Feinberg, 332]. Here Zechariah transitions from prophesying the military victory of Israel over her enemies (in Zech. 12:1-9), to prophesying the spiritual surrender of Israel to the Lord, their true Lord, who would come to save them—their true Lord whom they would initially reject, only to, much later, accept, as prophesied here: "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son" (vs. 10). As much as the intervention by God physically in a battle is welcome, even more valuable is God’s intervention spiritually.

Verse 10 is truly an amazing, and beautiful, prophetic passage. The Lord of the Universe is speaking here, for it is He who "will pour out on the house of David… a spirit of grace and supplication." Yet, it is also the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is speaking here, for it is He who is "the one they have pierced" (see John 19:37; see also Ps. 22:16; Isa. 53:5; Rev. 1:7). This is a direct testimony in the Bible that the Messiah is the Lord God of the Universe. In this passage, no distinction is made between the Lord and the Messiah: they are one and the same person. The One who will "pour out on the house of David… a spirit of grace and supplication", is the same as "the one they have pierced." To pierce God? How is that possible? For those Bible-believing Jews who deny Christ, this verse is difficult. For those of us who acknowledge Christ, this is an astounding prophecy of confirmation that affirms Jesus’ role as God and man.

For me, in addition to being amazingly prophetic, this passage is very touching. The grace of God is described, through His work in drawing people to Him. To draw the Israelites, He will "pour out" a "spirit of grace and supplication." This spirit will cause them to look at Christ, and in a moment of recognition, realize who He is, and what He has done for them. This moment of recognition is the conversion experience, and is the same that has been experienced by countless believers through the ages.

The conversion experience for the children of Israel will be especially meaningful because of their relationship with God, as the chosen people of God. Their conversion will also be especially meaningful because of their treatment of the One sent by God, their Messiah, Jesus Christ. Although we all, through our sin, have had a hand in Christ’s death, the role of the children of Israel is notably significant, because Jesus came to earth as their promised Messiah. As John tells us: "He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11). Jesus made special efforts to reach out to them. When sending His apostles out, He ordered them: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel" (Matt. 10:5-6). Given their special relationship with their Messiah, the children of Israel will be particularly moved when they finally acknowledge Him as the Messiah. As the Lord tells us: "They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son" (vs. 10).

For the children of Israel, the conversion experience will happen both nationally and individually, both for "the house of David" and "the inhabitants of Jerusalem." And so, their mourning will also be both national and individual: "On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves" (vss. 11-12). The Lord tells us specifically the names of some of the clans that will mourn: "The clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives" (vs. 12-13). There are some commentators who say that the references to the people of Israel here and in other prophecies are actually symbolic references to the Christian Church. However, the specific references to the actual names of the clans denotes to me that the Lord is speaking literally of the children of Israel. Yes, as Paul tells us, the children of Israel, miraculous as it may seem, will turn to Jesus, their Messiah, and be saved: "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:25-26).

The end of chapter 12 of Zechariah depicted the conversion experience. The beginning of chapter 13 depicts what naturally follows the conversion experience: cleansing from sin. "Here we see how that same blessed Spirit, who shall have wrought in them this godly penitential sorrow on account of their great national sin, shall also bring them into the experience of forgiveness, and open their eyes to the provision God has made for their justification and cleansing" [Baron, 459]. This is the pattern given to us in the Holy Scriptures: confession then purification. As John tells us: "If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). "God cleanses us from sin’s penalty and sin’s power" [Boice, 214]. The victory of the conversion experience does not stop with repentance, but it continues on with sanctification. When we repent and turn to God, our minds are converted so that we see things as He does. So, naturally, we develop a hatred of sin, as well as a desire to be holy, just as He is holy.

The Lord, through Zechariah, describes this cleansing as a fountain that is opened "to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (vs. 13:1). Of course, this fountain has long been available to those who would avail themselves of its cleansing power. "The fountain of pardon and purity is flowing beside many a soul that is too blind to perceive it" [Moore, 209]. Many of us have experienced the cleansing power of this fountain in our lives. But within the confines of the mystery of God’s election, access to this fountain is opened to those whom God chooses to call to repentance. Though as of the time of this writing, this fountain has not been opened (by and large) to the children of Israel, you can be sure, as God’s word is faithful, the day will come when the "fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity."

In this passage, the cleansing of the land is spoken of with respect to two sins: idolatry, and false prophecy: "‘On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land’" (vs. 2). Idolatry, the worship of false gods, is the root of all sins, even today. Though in most cases, we do not have physical representations of our idols, idolatry is still practiced today. For our purposes, an idol is anything, other than the true and living God, that grabs our allegiance. Common idols today include the quest for power, sexual desires, and the love of money. In past cultures, physical idols were erected that represented these very objects of desire. Nowadays we, for the most part, do not erect physical idols (we see ourselves as too sophisticated to do such a thing), yet, idolatry runs rampant in our culture, nevertheless.

The rest of this passage, verses 3 through 6, speaks of the hatred of false prophecy that will envelop the children of Israel after their conversion. False prophecy is a particularly heinous sin because it, often, is an encouragement for others to sin. False prophecy, in most cases, is an inducement to idolatry. The hatred of false prophecy by the converted children of Israel will be so strong that it will overcome the dearest natural bonds: "And if anyone still prophesies, his father and mother, to whom he was born, will say to him, ‘You must die, because you have told lies in the Lord’s name.’ When he prophesies, his own parents will stab him" (vs. 3). This may seem extreme, and fanatical, but it illustrates that the love for God, and His truth, should overwhelm love for anything else, even one’s own children. Jesus warned us: "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:37). The zeal of the children of Israel shown here against false prophecy will be in accordance with God’s law, for the law says: "If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery" (Deut. 13:6-10)

This section ends with a vignette that depicts the shame of a false prophet, and the strong denial that he was ever a false prophet: "On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his prophetic vision. He will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair in order to deceive. He will say, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth.’ If someone asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ he will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’" (vss. 4-6). In verse 6, the "wounds" that are spoken of are wounds that the false prophet inflicted on himself in the throes of his idol worship (see I Kings 18:28 for an example of this). The false prophet described here in Zechariah denies that the wounds had anything to do with idol worship. He gives the somewhat implausible explanation that the wounds were given him "at the house of his friends."

The treatment of the false prophets here underscores the fact that those of us who teach the Word of God have an enormous responsibility to strive to teach the truth. As James warns: "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1). "It is an awesome responsibility to deliver the Word of God. Toying with it, distorting it, or twisting it to fit some subjective idea or loyalty other than to the Lord is extremely serious, since it involves the lives of other people for all eternity!" [Kaiser, 411]

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