The Times of the Coming King
The last three chapters of the book of Zechariah document circumstances surrounding the advent of the coming Ruler, the Messiah. The oracle opens with a battle against Jerusalem (Zech. 12:1-9). The text indicates that Jerusalem and its rulers will be used as a means of judgment against the surrounding nations (Zech. 12:9). Not that Jerusalem gets off scott free. But this scene emphasizes the Lord’s role in defending His people. The next scene (Zech. 12:10-14) shows God eliciting repentance in the several families of Israel through two corresponding events; the pouring out the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of grace and supplication,” and the people catching sight of One “whom they have pierced.” (Zech. 12:10).
It is worth noting that the advent itself, as stunning as it will be, will not be enough to turn the hearts of the Jewish people to this personage, their long-promised Messiah. The deep mourning that will result from the realization that Israel has “thrust through” (daqar) when He first came to them, will be wrought by the Holy Spirit. In the final analysis, such is the corruption of human nature that it takes the special conviction of God the Spirit to open eyes and hearts so that sinners both see and feel the truth.
The familiar phrase “in that day” in Zechariah 13:1 (and repeated 15 times in this last oracle), looks forward to a time of abundant cleansing for sin which God will provide after the lamentations are over. This will be a new start for Israel – a new future with their covenant God. Idolatry and false prophecy will depart, and anyone who therefore pretends to be a prophet will be automatically deemed a blasphemer; so much so that even his parents will execute the presumptuous son (Zech. 13:2-4). If this occurs after the coming time of repentance and after the re-appearance of Messiah, as seems likely, then the level of sacrilege being committed, and the radical response of the parents to such high-handed presumption are understandable. With the Branch resident as King of the world and His long-expected kingdom reign in full swing, when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34), any person who claims the prophetic mantle will do so only to deceive (Zech. 13:4). The deception continues with the false prophet lying about his vocation (“I am a tiller of the ground”), and about wounds which were probably self-inflicted (Zech. 13:5-6. Cf. 1 Kings 18:28). Like most premillennialists, I do not take verse 6 as a messianic reference. It better fits an unrighteous person chafing under righteous government. The conditions are Edenic (cf. Isa. 51:3; Ezek. 36:35), but the hearts of some men; some born in the kingdom era; will still be hellish.
What this passage shows is that although the kingdom of Messiah is present on earth, and Israel has been reconciled to Him, there will be some with rebellious hearts; children of those who entered the kingdom, who will persist in their rejection of the revelatory atmosphere they have been brought up in. Hence the kingdom at this stage is not perfect. This is what we saw previously (e.g. Isa. 11:3-5; 32:1; Psa. 89:14-15), and will see again (e.g. Zech. 14:16-19).
However, the passage moves on to speak of the associate of Yahweh (Zech. 13:7), who is God’s shepherd, but who will be struck. The “sword” here is metaphorical (Psa. 22:20). It signifies a violent end, which is a foretelling of Messiah’s rejection. Then Yahweh moves against Israel (Zech. 13:7c-8a), and two-thirds of the population die. Once more in biblical prophecy the prediction is divided between the two comings of Messiah and the surrounding events. The striking of God’s appointed shepherd relates to the first coming, while the destruction of two-thirds of the populace concerns circumstances just prior to the second coming and is probably closely connected to the persecution of Jews by the “little horn” (Dan. 7:20-21), which is ended by the coming of Messiah (Dan. 7:22). The “refining” (Zech. 13:9) of the final third of the Jews (the Remnant of so many passages) is to turn them to their covenant God. The words which close out the chapter (“I will say, ‘This is My people’: and each one will say, ‘Yahweh is my God’”) are an affirmation from both parties of God’s covenant loyalty.
The oracle continues in chapter 14 with a prediction specific to Jerusalem. While only one third of Jews in Israel will be spared, the percentage of the “Remnant” in the capital who will escape will be a half (Zech. 14:1-2). Only after this catastrophe will the Lord intercede and fight for Jerusalem (Zech. 14:3). This will be the promised One, the Lord Himself (Zech. 14:4a). We know this to be messianic in nature, and that Messiah is Yahweh (just as in Zech. 9:9 and 11:12-13), but this was unclear before the ministry of Jesus.