When Jessica and I were dating, she lived in Perryville, Missouri and I lived in the west suburbs of Chicago. After work, which was in downtown Chicago, I would be driving down I-55 and see these large oil refineries in Joliet. The jungle of tubes, pipes, valves, switches and pumps could easily remind someone of Tinker-Toys. You remember those things right? You could build all these crazy things with them. The only thing, unlike Tinker-Toys, an oil refinery actually does something. They process crude oil. Crude oil is oil before it’s refined into gasoline, diesel fuel, liquefied petroleum gas, jet fuel and the like.
There’s also a different kind of crude oil than that in refineries. It’s the slime and grime of our hearts. The recent pandemic brought and continues to bring out the best in us as well as the worst in us. The willingness to help others and the outreach is great, but the self-centered, narcissistic attitude of people has seemed to grow. Financial fears while being laid off of work and watching the stock market act like a yo-yo may lead people to self-medicate with too much food, too much sleep, or too much alcohol. When we’re not used to being able to do things the we want to, we may descent into boredom and depression. Sinful slime and grime are even more contagious than any virus. So … is there a refinery for our hearts?
The answer is yes! In Zechariah 13:1, words we hear every Sunday in the forgiveness of our sins, God’s kingdom comes like a refinery to purify and cleanse our putrid and polluted hearts. As we dig into Zechariah 13:1, we will be using these basic questions … what, why, where, how, and when.
What? A fountain! “On that day a fountain will be opened” (Zech. 13:1). The fountain is a water fountain. Zechariah 14:8 tells us that this fountain is a fountain of living water. “Living water”, though, implies that there’s what? Dead water. Dead water is allowing sin to lead us down dark paths and swallow us whole. Zechariah promise a fountain of living water that refines and purifies the muck and mire lodged in our lives. What an amazing fountain, right!
“Will be opened” are three key words in Zechariah 13:1. So let’s take a look at them. First is “will.” The verb is future tense … “will.” The fountain of living water is coming in the future, it’s on the horizon, it’s soon-to-be revealed! Wait a minute thought, what about the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. Is there something wrong with the sin offerings, peace offerings, freewill offerings, guilt offerings they did? Something wrong with slain bulls and lambs and goats and rams?
No, there is nothing wrong at all. These offerings of the Old Testament, however, point to a greater cleansing, a greater refining, a greater forgiveness, a greater fountain.
The second key word in Zechariah 13:1 is “be.” “Be” in this case entails a passive verb, “will be.” Future, passive. Zechariah doesn’t say, “You need to open the fountain. She needs to open the fountain. The government bailout needs to open the fountain.” No! “Will be.” This is a “divine passive verb.” Now our English teachers are like what? Never heard of that one Pastor Mike. You know, my wife also accuses me of making things up sometimes. But let me explain. “A divine passive verb” simply means that God opens the fountain for us!
The third key words is “opened.” “Will be … opened.” This is great news! Especially in light of the fact that some places are still closed down. I have a step-niece and nephew who may finally get to go back to in person school after Easter. Many fast food places are still drive-thru only. Some churches are even still closed. God’s refining fountain … well that is always open. God invites us for refining and purifying as often as we need it … 24-7, 365 days a year.
What? A fountain will be opened! Why? Well let me tell you why. You’ve been out working in the yard on a hot summer day. You’re caked with slime and grime and you need to attend a wedding that afternoon. So you go inside, put on your best clothes and head out the door.
Wait! Something’s missing right? A shower maybe! Nobody just changes their clothes without first taking a shower and washing off their dirt and sweat. Nobody does that … except us that is. In fact, the entire human race reeks of sin in the presence of a holy God.
Would you believe that there’s an even bigger problem? Because we all smell the same, we don’t notice how much we stink. Many go their entire lives without sensing their need for cleansing from sin. Others think their good life covers the foul odor of their rebellion. Too often … you and I don’t spiritually shower. What happens then? We stink!
What? “A fountain will be opened.” Why? Because we stink! How bad? Well check this out.
They are called the seven deadly sins. The Seven Deadly Sins originated with Pope Gregory who made them official in 590 AD. Lust … I want what I want and I want it right now. Envy … I want what you have and I want it right now. Greed … I want more of what I have and I want it right now. Sloth … I don’t want anything … right now. Wrath … I’m mad and angry and I’m going to dump it all on you right now. Pride … I’m better than you, richer than you, and smart than you right now! Gluttony … I’m going to indulge myself with whatever and I’m going to do it right now!
Binge-watching, especially during a pandemic, is a sure-fire way to invite the Seven Deadly Sins into our hearts and homes. How smart is that? Binge-watching involves stringing together several TV episodes in a row, for hours on end. Binge-watching is a pandemic in its own right as 50% of viewers in their 20’s say they binge-watch weekly. That’s pre-COVID numbers. Researchers at the University of Texas found that binge-watching is correlated to depression, loneliness, obesity, and the loss of self-control.
What? “A fountain will be opened.” Why? The Seven Deadly Sins! Where? Where is this fountain? Zechariah 12:10 helps us. God says, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” God? Pierced? God pierced with what? The razor-sharp tip of a spear. Where?
Calvary. John 19:34 describes a Roman soldier taking his spear and opening up our Savior’s side. “There was a sudden flow of blood and water.” Here is Zechariah’s fountain! Water flooding from the one whose body is blistered and burned. A gushing river of life surging from the one who hangs dead upon the cross. Living water flowing from the one who cried out, “I thirst.” Here is Jesus … crushed and cursed by the slime and grime of the world, of you and me.
What? “A fountain will be open.” Why? The Seven Deadly Sins! Where? Mt. Calvary. How? How does the fountain of water, gushing from our Savior’s side, purge and purify all the gunk and goo in my heart? Two words … Holy Baptism.
Like a conduit or pipe, Holy Baptism links us to the open fountain of living water. Holy Baptism delivers the gifts of Christ’s cross and crucifixion. Holy Baptism announces that all guilt is gone, the debt is paid, sin is forgiven and hell is vanquished. Holy Baptism empowers us to hear Jesus calling us back, bringing us home and creating in us clean hearts.
But the fountain flowing through Holy Baptism won’t do us any good if we look at it and think, “I wish so and so would get under that water!” You know how it goes. “I’m just as good as the next guy. I pay my taxes, coach Little League and every now and then I slip a few bucks into the offering plate.” “Me, a sinner? Come on! I get rowdy every now and then, but my momma says I’m a pretty good ol’ boy.” These are the stories of lost people. Don’t become one of them.
What? “A fountain will be opened.” Why? We spiritually stink and smell! Where? Calvary. How? Holy Baptism. When? We’re missing when. When does the water flow? When does it come to me? When does it purify my polluted heart? It’s because Jesus loves you so very, very, very much that his life-giving, soul-renewing water flows to you, when? Right now! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.