Verses one and two in today’s passage present a beautiful image of what will one day happen to Israel, or so I’ve interpreted it. I tend to take prophetic passages as literal as I can, and I believe that there will come a day of national repentance and cleansing for Israel.
Some claim that this was fulfilled during the First Advent. It all really hinges on who the “prophet” is vss. 4-6. Is it referring to Jesus? At first glance, you could say that: Who else was “wounded at the house of [his] friends”? That would be rather poignant, since our Lord was definitely wounded where he should've expected love and friendship, among his own people. I’ve even heard a moving sermon about how—even today—Jesus is still being wounded “at the house of his [supposed] friends.” But quite frankly, that interpretation doesn’t really jibe with the rest of the passage. The Lord certainly hasn't yet banished all the names of idols from the land. Prophecy is also completely banned from the land, which didn’t happen in the 1st century at all. And Jesus, to our knowledge, never was a farmer. He was a carpenter (or some say a stonemason), not a farmer.
With all due respect to those who disagree, this is the best interpretation I’ve heard. When the Lord returns, he'll initiate (through the Holy Spirit, as we saw yesterday) national repentance, mourning, and cleansing. Millions—the vast majority—of Jews will come to faith in the Messiah. And all the names of idols will be banned from the land. Also prophecy will be banned, on pain of death; there'll be no need for prophecy, since the Lord will be right there to personally consult.
That’s the key to understanding this passage, I believe. If someone is still a “prophet,” then ipso facto he’s a false one. And in God’s system, loyalty to him overrides even a parents’ love for their child. If they find out that their own child is a false prophet, they’ll kill him.
In the system that we’re seeing in this passage, if someone is worshiping another god, he’s doing it in private, hiding it from everyone else. They won’t walk around in a prophet’s clothes (like John the Baptist). If anyone asks him “Are you a prophet?” they’ll wisely answer “No! I’ve been a farmer for all my life! From when I was a boy!” And if someone asks him “What about those wounds on your hands? Are those self-inflicted wounds, like in a pagan ceremony?” they’ll tell the questioner “Oh, no. It’s not what you’re thinking. I didn’t inflict any wounds on myself. Nosiree! No, I got these wounds in a fight in my friend’s house. Those crazy friends of mine!”
Now, let’s get something very clear. If you’re horrified at the thought of parents killing their child who’s worshiping another god, you have to keep it in context. In this age, the Church Age, our weapons are not of this world: Instead of bullets and bombs, our weapons are spiritual, such as the Good News and prayer. What we can’t accomplish through prayer and persuasion, we leave alone to be between a person and God.
But when Christ returns, that'll be the end of questioning and religious plurality. He'll rule with an iron scepter, not a paper one. It will be the Kingdom of God, not the Democracy of God. And this Kingdom won’t have a figurehead like Great Britain today.
But just because our methods are spiritual, that shouldn’t in any way lessen our zeal for his glory, his renown. We should be no more tolerant of false religion and false prophecy than we will be then. To see our Lord being deprived of any of the glory that belongs to him should really bother us, probably a lot more than it does.
That’s the result of being cleansed from sin and impurity. Just as Israel’s cleansing will one day lead to zeal for his glory like we read today, our personal cleansing in this Age should lead to the same.
Lord Jesus, when I see someone (including myself) not giving you what you deserve, it should drive me to my knees and put a loving warning in my mouth. By your grace.