“No Other Fount I Know”

I. Verse 1 – The Fountain Opened – This verse continues the theme of salvation for the “House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (12:10) Reflecting on the piercing of the Messiah (12:10) and the reality that all who benefit from this will come to a point of individual mourning for sin, Zechariah now expands on the concept of cleansing. He sets forth a clear image of the completed work of Christ for the restoration of his covenant people.

A. “A fountain opened” –

1.The fountain signifies Christ’s death as inflicted on him through the shedding of blood. His red-streaked body makes our blood-red sins as white as unspoiled snow; his crimson blood makes our crimson sins like white wool.

2. It is called a fountain, not because of the abundance of blood (though, within the framework of human death, there was an abundance) but because of its never-failing power and presence to cleanse. Any person from any tribe or tongue or nation, in any generation, that comes to Christ in search of forgiveness of sin and cleansing of conscience, will find his sacrifice abundantly effectual: ”If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

B. The House of David and the Inhabitants of Jerusalem.

1. This image refers to all the inhabitants of the earth that God has claimed as a covenant people. Chapter 9:1-8 gives a vision of victory over all the enemies of God’s people saying that he “has his eye on mankind and on all the tribes of Israel.” His conquering of them includes their being “a remnant for our God” by his victorious power of salvation on “that day [that] the Lord their God will save them as the flock of his people” (9:16).

2. It brings to mind the benefits that they receive from the greater Son of David in the covenant made with the house of David. “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. . . . and your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.” (2 Samuel 7:12, 16).

C. “To cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” – The bondage and oppression that should be most feared is not the political despotism that dominates so much of the world, but the bondage of sin. In their zeal for political independence, the Israel of the days of Jesus missed the significance of these promises and the actions that were necessary to effect them. Sin is not dealt with easily; the cleansing involved here is a far greater exhibition of wisdom and power than any overthrow of military domination or political hegemony.

1. Sin – How can a violation of the Law of God be forgiven when the Lord by “no means clears the guilty?” In reality, he does not clear them, even though he forgives them. The full weight of their punishment is exacted to the utmost farthing by its being inflicted on another who can justly represent them in a covenant relationship. ”The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” so wrote Isaiah (53:6).

2. Uncleanness – The source of sin, our impure hearts, must also be remedied. This he does according to the covenant of Jeremiah by putting his law within us and writing it on our hearts. (Jeremiah 31:33). Thus, not only is the penalty of sin removed, but the seat of corruption from which it rules is assaulted, its power broken, and its thorough defeat assured.

II. Verses 2 – 6 – The Removal of the Sources of Corruption – The corruption of the hearts of the nation has manifest itself in two devastating ways—idolatry and the love of false prophets.

A. God will cut off the names of the idols so that they will be remembered no more. In former days victories over idol worship had been short-lived. Though Israel left Egypt and received from the Lord clear commandments, they did not leave its superstition about gods (Exodus 20:1-4; 32:1, 4). Though Rachel left her father’s house to be with Jacob, she did not leave behind the household idols (Genesis 31:19, 34-35). If one king tore down the high places of idol worship, another king re-established them (2 Kings 21:3-6). When the fountain, however, is opened and cleanses those who come to it, no desire for idols will remain, their very names will be detestable, and the Lord alone will be the desire of his people. One who has seen with his spiritual eyes the living and true God in his redemptive work will have no taste for anything that detracts from his glory. The idols of Buddhism, the icons of Eastern Orthodoxy, the images of Roman Catholicism, tortillas that look like the Virgin Mary will fall like the house of Dagon under the zeal of Samson (Judges 16:23-31).

B. The era of prophets will end and the temptation to believe false prophets will be removed. The bold confidence and aggressive posturing of false prophets among the people of Israel serves as the background (e.g. Jeremiah 14:13-22. Also see Ezekiel 13 for a similar condemnation of false prophets, including those that lead people astray by establishing superstitious attachment to trinkets, a mongrelization of idolatry and false prophecy).

1. They will be rejected with absolute disdain by even their most intimate associates. If a person assumed to be a prophet, coming with new revelation , he would be rejected and silenced even by his father and mother. The most intense and immediately natural affections will not overcome the clarity, beauty, completeness and finality of the work of Christ as prophet who was the Word made flesh.

2. So intense will be the reaction against the claims to prophecy, that even those that would pretend to have such power and authority will be ashamed to have the office connected to them.

He will realize that no one will receive his message (“vision”) that he claims to have received. Whereas false prophets formerly prospered in the eyes of the people, when this great alteration in spiritual condition takes place, false prophets will be fearful of even stating their contrived notions.

Any external accoutrements assumed in order to have the appearance of a prophet (“hairy cloak”) he (or she) quickly will lay aside so that no one will suspect that they even harbor the desire for recognition as a prophet.

He will claim to be among the lowest of workers, an indentured servant that plows the soil, rather than be suspected of coveting the prestige of a prophet. The self-imposed asceticism and infliction of bodily punishment that might have gained sympathy toward them as especially holy, no longer will gain any credibility. When such evidence of self-infliction appears, they will be hard-pressed to find an adequate explanation and will even contrive a falsehood to escape being discovered: “The wounds I received in the house of my friends.”

The coming of the Messiah and the completion of his work renders the necessity of any prophets null and void. After the ascension of Christ and his gifting of the infant church with means for perpetuating the truths of the new covenant with gifts of apostles and prophets (Ephesians 4:11), no more prophets were needed. God spoke his final word in his Son and in the full explication of his meaning in the work of the apostles and the prophets that were subject to the Apostles’ instruction (Hebrews 2:3, 4; 1 Corinthians 14:36-40; Ephesians 2:19, 20; 3:4, 5) This having been done, no need for prophecy exists. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1, 2).

III. Verse 7 – The Strange Source of Cleansing Power

A. The command, “Awake, O sword,” indicates that the sword of vengeance has been dormant until the time for it to be called forth. This happened in the “fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4, 5) and is the only reason for the “divine forbearance” (Romans 3:25, 26) through which God passed over the sins of his people. But now, we see in this prophecy, the shout of God for the sword of vengeance to “Awake.” Now, prophetically speaking, is the time for the sword to come alive to its task.

B. It is to be wielded against one that is called “My Shepherd.” Surely one can see immediately that this is the “Great Shepherd of the Sheep,” mentioned in Hebrews 13:20 who died and lives again in accord with the blood of the eternal covenant and transformed through just means the God of wrath, who lifts this sword, to a God of Peace.. This is the “Good Shepherd” who “enters by the door” and is the “Shepherd of the sheep” (John 10:2). The door through which the shepherd enters is his own death; there is no other door through which the sheep can be called to pasture. He lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:15) and he lays it down that he may take it up again (John 10:17).

C. “Against the man who stands next to me” – The one that is the object of its striking is a man. At the same time, however, he stands on par with the Lord of Hosts who is speaking. Indeed, the Word that was with God and was God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 14). The one that  was in the “form” of God took the “form” of a servant and was thus found in human form so that he might be obedient even to the point of the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8). This man, though in his manhood he share our essence, also in the singularity of his person is of the same divine essence as the one who strikes him. It is he who said in chapter 12, “When they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him” (12:10).

D. When this event unfolded during the life of Christ, the disciples became so disoriented that “they all forsook him and fled” (Matthew 26:31, 56). At the same time, God turned his hand “upon the little ones.” At this point, we see the hand of protection, of tender mercy, and sustaining power. Though they were scattered, he would bring them back and strengthen them for the ministry they had been given, to be fishers of men.

IV. Verses 8, 9 – The Cleansed People ( “. . . test them as gold is tested.”)

A. Even though the long-awaited Messiah had come, and had done precisely what was prophesied that he should do, the overwhelming majority of the people did not recognize him and refused to receive him. “He came to his own and his own received him not” John 1:11. They did not believe when Jesus was here, they did not believe when he rose from the dead, and they refused to hear the preaching of the apostles; thus, they remain under condemnation and they perish. (John 3:19, 36; Matthew 28:11-15; Acts 17:13; Acts 28:24-28; 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16)

B. Those that believe will be put in the fires of purification. As James wrote to the believing Jews dispersed throughout the empire, he admonished them to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” He also reminded them, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” Peter also, knowing the reality of this image in Zechariah from verse 9 wrote about God’s determined preservation of those that believe in Jesus, saying to them, ”In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6, 7). So Paul encouraged the Christians in Rome with that promise when he wrote, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance , . . . character, . . . hope, . . . does not put us to shame because god’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

C. Again we see the dual truths that constitute the culmination of every effectual operation of covenantal grace. In former days as God called for repentance from injustice, they turned a deaf ear and so God responded, “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear” (Zechariah 7:13). Now he says, “They will call upon my name, and I will answer them.” Those that have been plunged in the fountain that cleanses will hear God say, “They are my people;” They will respond from the heart, “The Lord is my God.”

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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