Zechariah 12 – Good Messianic Mourning

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Today’s PassageZechariah 12

The bulk of today’s chapter is a prophecy of judgment. At some future day, God promises, he will use Judah and Jerusalem as an instrument of his justice, inflicting on those who oppose his people the due penalty for their evil. He uses a number of analogies to paint the prophetic picture: Judah will be like a cup of wine causing inebriation, a stone too heavy to lift, a firepot setting the surrounding wood on fire. But as the chapter concludes, we come to what appears to be a Messianic prophecy.

The chapter so far has concerned a day of reckoning for the Gentile nations. But suddenly we come to this:

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (10)

The passage takes a radical turn, revealing that God himself has been pierced, promising that he will pour out his spirit on Jerusalem, and that the people will mourn for him “as one mourns for an only son.” If this verse doesn’t have the scent of Jesus Christ all over it, I don’t know what does. But how are we supposed to make sense of it?

See, you may notice that the house of David and the people of Jerusalem are predicted to mourn for this pierced-through only-son-like “Him” who is God. And I suppose you might say that Jerusalem here represents those Christians who mourn their sins against God, who repent, accept Christ’s forgiveness, and receive the Holy Spirit. As Paul says in Romans, “They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (Romans 9:6). But Zechariah goes on, enumerating very specific individuals who will mourn the pierced son: “The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself…the family of the house of Nathan…of the house of Levi…of the Shimeites…” (12-13). Why David? Why Nathan? Why Levi and the Shimeites, whoever the Shimeites are? If they’re metaphors, then what are they metaphors for?

I don’t know exactly, but I can hazard a guess. Remember that this event will follow a divine judgment against Israel’s enemies: “And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (9). Might it be the case that God’s apocalyptic intervention on Israel’s behalf will, in the last days, open their eyes to the Messiah? Is this an “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow” (Philippians 2:10) situation?

I don’t know. I could be wrong. But we’re here to read the passage and take a stab at understanding it, so if my explanation seems faulty or lacking, I encourage you to ask God for wisdom, evaluate the text for yourself, and reach your own conclusions.

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