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The Pierced Shield

December 9, 2018, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee (Zechariah 12:1-14) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Zechariah
Preached at a Mandarin (Sunday) service

Tags: Zechariah

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Title: The Pierced Shield
Passage: Zechariah 12
Date: 9th Dec 2018
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee

In this period of Advent, we are using the prophecies of Zechariah to prepare us for Christmas, the coming of Jesus Christ. The early apostles and evangelists also used some of these prophecies of Zechariah to interpret the significance of the Jesus event. As you might recall, when we were looking at Zechariah 9, Pastor JinTao shared how the Gospel writers used Zechariah 9 to describe Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey just like the promised king. 【1】For our passage today, I will be focusing on verse 10: 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. I’m highlighting this verse for Advent this year, because this verse is quoted in the Gospel of John at Jesus’ crucifixion.

When a person is crucified, “the length of time required to reach death could range from hours to days depending on method, the victim's health, and the environment.” 【2】 In John 19, Jesus was crucified on “31the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have their legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” This soldier might have pierced Jesus just to make sure that Jesus was really dead. John then said: 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” This is a quote from Psalm 34:20. Then John said, 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” This second quote comes from our passage today, the scripture in Zechariah 12. John again quoted the same verse in describing the resurrected Jesus Christ in Revelations 1: 7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.

In both instances, John clearly connected the piercing of Jesus with Zechariah 12. Just like how John used Zechariah 9 to describe Jesus riding on a donkey’s colt into Jerusalem (John 12:15), John used Zechariah 12 to describe Jesus who was pierced and mourned. But before we grapple with its meaning in Jesus, we need to interpret its meaning in Zechariah. There are 3 parts to verse 10: the outpouring of God’s spirit, the piercing of a person, and finally the mourning of the people. First, God said that “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.” What this means is that they will experience a spiritual awakening. God will cause them to understand the magnitude of his grace, and when they realize who he is, they will appeal and pray to him. They have a new spirit from God, and this prompted a true heartfelt response to him.

What would make them come to such a realization? Verses 1-9 offer us a hint. These verses describe God’s protection of his people from their enemies. They will become so strong that any attackers will self-destruct, just like a person who tries to attack a huge fire. In the historical context of Ezra, we see that this was true in the reconstruction of the second Temple. Even though there were obstructions from the local people to prevent the efforts of the returnees, eventually all their obstructions failed and the Temple was successfully rebuilt. You may recall in Ezra 3, when the foundation of the Temple was completed, 11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” In Ezra 6, when the entire Temple was completed, they responded with a dedication of the temple and observing the Passover. What would make them respond to God’s grace in this way? Zechariah tells us that it was a spirit of realization about God. What does Zechariah 12:5 say? 5 Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘The people of Jerusalem are strong, because the Lord Almighty is their God.’ This was the spiritual awakening! They realized the reason for the completion of their work despite all the opposition of the enemies. They were strong, but it was not by their own strength. The reason was that they were strong because the Lord Almighty was their God. This is well described in verse 8: 8 On that day the Lord will shield those who live in Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord going before them. I especially like the word “shield”. If God is your shield, then you become an impenetrable fortress. No matter how weak you might be, you have strength against all opposition, because your strength comes from the powerful shield.

But Zechariah 12:10 didn’t just stop there. This spirit of realization didn’t just stop there. The people didn’t just realize the strength of God. Because when they looked at God, they suddenly realized what they had done to him. Part two of verse 10 says: “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” There are a few interpretations for the person who was pierced, but the most convincing one to me is that it was God who was pierced. But it seems paradoxical. How can the almighty God, the impregnable shield be pierced? Let me tell you the reason. It is because of love. When God committed himself into a covenantal relationship with his people, he acted out of love. And when you love, you open up your vulnerable heart. If you love, then you can be hurt when the other party breaks the commitment. Even God, who is the powerful shield against all enemies, can be pierced. Because of love. God remains faithful and committed to his people, by restoring them back to Jerusalem and defending them so that the Temple can be rebuilt. When the people experienced God’s protection, it was the moment that they realized the faithfulness of God. It was also the moment that the people realized their own faithlessness. They saw that they had pierced their God who had shielded them and made them strong. God who had defended them against all opposition did not defend himself against his own people. Why? Because of love.

I think this is the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus became the fleshly representation of God pierced by his people. Yet he did so willingly because of love. Thomas came to the same realization when he touched the pierced side of Jesus. John 20: 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Zechariah 12:1 is a reminder to us that God is God and Lord: The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person. In John 1, Jesus is described in no lesser terms: 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. Yet, John used Zechariah 12 to remind us, that this creator of heaven and earth, creator of humanity and life, can be pierced because of love. I hope that in this Advent, we don’t just see the God of power, but that we also see the God of love. We pierce him with our unfaithfulness.

We now come to the third and final part of Zechariah 12:10: “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.” Zechariah said that the last part of the spiritual awakening was mourning. First, the people recognized the grace of God in their lives. They realized that they had strength because God was their God. But then, God’s faithfulness revealed their own unfaithfulness. God may be powerful, but God can be pierced when he loves. He can be pierced by those he loves. So lastly, the people must mourn for their misdeeds. I am reminded of the mourning of the people in Ezra 9-10, who took radical steps to reject their foreign wives. We may not agree with what they had done, but we should emulate their eagerness to do something to reflect their repentance.

In this period of Advent, I hope we also experience a spiritual awakening. We are already so much more blessed than the people in Ezra’s time. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us. We are a new Self in Jesus Christ. I hope we continue our transformation as God’s new people. We can do it because God is our God. His faithfulness is our eternal source of strength. But we have to go beyond just spiritual awakening. We have to see that we often pierce God with our unfaithfulness. And we need to mourn and repent our sinfulness. I would like to suggest 3 things that we can do before the end of the year. One, we need to commit to our Advent devotions. Through the words of God, we can be enlightened by the grace of God for his people. I encourage all of us to write notes in the journal. Write your own prayers and reflections for each daily reading. Two, I want each one of us to commit someone who has yet to realize God’s amazing grace in our daily prayers. Pray for the work of the Holy Spirit, so that we can all come to know God. Lastly, we must be ready to share our testimony with them. Don’t keep your relationship with God a secret. If today you feel the love of God, then share your testimony of love.

【1】 http://www.jubilee.org.sg/sermons/?sermon_id=878
【2】https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion#Cause_of_death

Zechariah 12 (Listen)

12:1 The oracle of the word of the LORD concerning Israel: Thus declares the LORD, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him: “Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it. On that day, declares the LORD, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But for the sake of the house of Judah I will keep my eyes open, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the LORD of hosts, their God.’

“On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves. And they shall devour to the right and to the left all the surrounding peoples, while Jerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.

“And the LORD will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. On that day the LORD will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, going before them. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. 11 On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; 14 and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.

(ESV)