“On that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the residents of Jerusalem, to wash away sin and impurity.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Why do you behave toward your kids and make the decisions you do when they have done something wrong? “Because they’ve done something wrong,” you might be tempted to answer quickly. Yes, but why? What is the goal of your actions and decisions? Is it punishment? Retribution? Revenge? Sometimes that seems to be the intended goal of God’s actions and declarations in response to sin in the prophets. But here, Zechariah points us to something even better in His crosshairs: restoration.
The people of Israel had been disciplined. Severely. But, they deserved it. They had been wildly unfaithful and disobedient for far longer than they had dared hope. They had been borrowing capital to finance their lavish lifestyle and the bill suddenly came due. Actually, that’s not quite right. Prophets had been telling them a reckoning was coming for many, many years, but they just kept ignoring them and going back to their party.
Then it was over. Dad came home and it was time to face the music. They were going to be punished. And again, they deserved it.
Have you ever been there? I suspect so. I have. I’d say it’s a right of passage in growing up, except there’s no reason it should be considered something anyone has to face. There’s certainly no particular benefit to be gained in needing to face just punishment for some action. It just means you’ve done something wrong and why should that be considered any kind of a requirement?
How about this, though, have you ever been on the other side of things. If you’re a parent you almost certainly have. Kids screw up. And the older they get, the bigger the screw ups become. That’s just sinners being sinners. It’s not right, but it’s reality. And wise parents know that there are certain situations, certain errors in judgment, certain sins that require punishment.
Here, though, is where things get tricky. Wise parents understand what needs to be done, but only the wisest of the wise understand further the why and the goal of it. This is actually a place where we can have errors in judgment that can wind up being even more damaging than the original offense was.
When punishment is given simply for the sake of punishment, that’s not a good thing. Nothing is gained. Nothing is learned. There is only anger and resentment on both sides. This usually happens when punishment is doled out in anger.
An equally grievous error is when punishment is given with retribution or even revenge in mind. Here is where parents are trying to get their children back for what they’ve done. We want them to feel the pain they’ve caused us or someone else and so we structure the punishment accordingly.
This sounds awful to say like that, but it’s more common than we’d like to admit. It’s a pressing temptation in situations of discipline. We’re hurt and we want them to hurt in like kind. But this is another terrible mistake to make as parents. It only teaches our kids that it’s okay to cause others pain who have caused us pain and that is decidedly not the way of Jesus.
God had punished the people for their sins, but His goal was neither punishment for punishment’s sake nor revenge nor retribution. The goal He had in mind was something much, much better. He was aiming for restoration.
What Zechariah says here follows on the heals of his description of the people looking with great sorrow and grief on the one whom they pierced. This is the scene following the death of the Son of God. Their mourning was deep and profound. But on that day…
When this great sorrow has come and they have paid for their sins—or, more accurately, this one who has been pierced has paid for them on their behalf—a fountain will be opened to wash away sin and impurity. That fountain is the blood of Jesus, the spotless lamb, sacrificed for the sins of the world. That’s the kind of God we serve. He may bring discipline and punishment when the situation demands it, but it is always with restoration as the goal.
The God who created the world and everything in it desires a relationship with you. He’ll hold you accountable for your sins, but He’s already moved to have them paid for on your behalf. All you need do is receive the restoration He now offers in place of the condemnation under which you once rightly stood. That, and consider following His example of grace and truth when you approach your own kids.