Amen. Please be seated. Now if you would, take your copies of God’s Word in your hands and turn with me, once again, to the prophecy of Zechariah chapter 12 reading from the first verse. You’ll find that on page 798 if you’re reading along with us in the church Bibles. Zechariah chapter 12. Before we read God’s Word let’s turn with him together for his assistance as we pray. Let us pray.
O Lord, give to your church ears to hear what your Spirit says in your Word. Open our eyes that we might behold marvelous things out of your law. Show us the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God” shining on us in the face of Jesus Christ. Draw us again to him. Melt our hearts. Enable us to cling to and rest on and receive Christ alone as he is offered in the Gospel. Strengthen us for new obedience. Make us like our Redeemer. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Do it from this passage we pray for the glory of Jesus name. Amen.
Zechariah chapter 12, reading from the first verse. This is the Word of Almighty God.
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. Andall 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.
“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. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 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; 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; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.
“On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
“And on that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more. And also I will remove from the land the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness. And if anyone again prophesies, his father and mother who bore him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, for you speak lies in the name of the Lord.’ And his father and mother who bore him shall pierce him through when he prophesies.
“On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies. He will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive, but he will say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a worker of the soil, for a man sold me in my youth.’ And if one asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your back?’ he will say, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.’
Amen and we praise God. He has spoken to us in his holy Word. May he write its truth on all our hearts.
What a Difference A Day Makes
You may have noticed from time to time, perhaps on social media, where people like to post historical data related to significant events that take place on that particular day. So for example, let me give you a few. On this day, 1633, Galileo Galilei stood before the Roman Catholic Inquisition and was forced to recant his discovery that the solar system revolved around the sun instead of the earth. On this day in 1679, the duke of Monmouth slaughtered Scottish covenanters at the Battle of Bodwell Brig. On this day in 1714, Matthew Henry went home to be with the Lord. On this day, 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia. On this day, this is an important one—on this day, 1847, the donut was invented. On this day, 1898, U.S. Marines landed in Cuba as part of the Spanish American War. On this day, 1942, a Japanese submarine was found at the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon. In this day, 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill into law. On this day, 1987, Fred Astaire died. On this day, 1990, Checkpoint Charlie was dismantled in Berlin. What a difference a day makes, right?
What a difference a day makes! History pivots on a day. Someone is born who changes history. A battle is fought. A law enacted. A discovery made. And everything changes. What a difference a day makes.
We’ve been working our way through the book of Zechariah and if you’ll recall, the second major division of the book began back in chapter 9 with the first of two oracles, prophetic sermons, if you like, dealing with the purposes of God for his people. The oracle that ran from chapter 9 through chapter 11 is united, as we saw, by a common theme. There is a repeat metaphor: the Lord is the Shepherd of his people. They are his flock and he is the Shepherd. Ultimately, points us—doesn’t it?—to Jesus, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Tonight we begin the final section of the book, the last oracle of the book of Zechariah begins in chapter 12 and runs all the way to the close of Zechariah’s book. And, here to, there is a repeat motif. Not now the theme of the Good Shepherd. There is a repeat phrase. I wonder if you noticed it as we read it together. It is the phrase: “on that day.” “On that day.” Some fifteen times it’s used in these three chapters to focus our attention on what for Zechariah will be the climactic work of God in saving his people. What a difference a day makes.
Zechariah's Day: Finding expression in the Life of the Church of Jesus Christ
Zechariah has a particular day, a particular kind of day in fact in mind. On this day in history, Zechariah is saying, but a particular day, a different kind of day. This is future history for Zechariah. This is all promise and it focuses our attention remarkably clearly on the Gospel and God’s grace in Christ. Now, a little caveat to that: when Zechariah talks about this particular day over these three chapters he does not have in mind one literal 24-hour period. Some of what he describes, as we’ll see, takes place at the cross, at Calvary. Some of it happens in the wake of the work of Christ immediately following his death and resurrection and ascension, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is the era in which we live. And, some of it will wait for Christ’s final return in glory. And, for Zechariah, all of that is covered by this day that he has in mind. It really is Zechariah’s way of speaking about the age of salvation’s fullness that has dawned in the coming of the person and work of Christ. We live, we might say, right now in the middle of Zechariah’s day.
And, as we look at that together it helps us, I think, in two ways. First of all, understanding what Zechariah means by “the day” provides us with something of an interpretive key to understanding how to read Zechariah’s message. Just as the day Zechariah has in view isn’t literal; it describes the entire age between the first and final coming of Jesus. So, in the rest of the prophecy, we are being tipped off that the fulfillment in view is spiritual and supernatural even if it happens to be couched in very literal Old Testament categories. Finding its expression in the life of the church of Jesus Christ, these are words for us.
Zechariah's Day: A Cause to Hope
And, secondly, understanding that Zechariah’s day refers to the whole age inaugurated by the coming and cross of Christ and not concluded until the return of Christ. Understanding that should give us hope. It doesn’t just give us a key to the book; it gives us a key to hope. It tells us the time of salvation, the time of mercy and grace and blessing, that time is now, today. Today is the day of salvation. This is the day the prophet had in mind and so we are to be exhorted. “As long as it is called today if you hear the Lord’s voice do not harden your hearts.” Now is the appointed time. Today is the day of salvation. That also means—doesn’t it?—that the message is urgent. It offers us hope, but not hope that stretches on forever. Hope for today. Hope for the day. It’s just a day. And soon the day will come to its conclusion. Soon the window of opportunity, as it were, will close and overtures of mercy offered to us in Jesus will be a thing of the past. Today, come to Christ. Today, repent and believe the Gospel. Today, flee to Jesus. Today, get serious and do business with your God. The time is short. Today is the day, Zechariah is saying. Today is the day but the day is almost over. The window of opportunity will close. And, so, the Lord would call you with offers of hope but with real urgency. Today. Now. Here. To do business with your Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. All of that is said by way of introduction.
Let me direct your attention to the passage that we read together. I want you to notice three things here that we are told God will do on that great day. Verses 1 to 9: what God will do for us. He keeps his people. 10 to 14: what God will do in us. He converts his people. And 13:1-6: what God will do to us. He cleanses his people. What God will do for us. He will keep his people. What God will do in us. He will convert his people. What he will do to us. He will cleanse his people.
I. What God will do For Us: He Will Keep His People
Look at verses 1-9, first of all. What God will do for us. Zechariah is about to describe the life of God’s people in terms, at least for Zechariah’s original hearers, perhaps for us also, are so expansive, so far-reaching, so conclusive and absolute in the extraordinary claims that are made that he carefully prefaces his oracle so as to help to remember who it is that’s speaking. Verse one: “Thus declares the Lord who stretched out the heavens, founded the earth, formed the spirit of man within him.” Before we read the promises of God, we had better dust off our doctrine of God because we’re going to need it, Zechariah says. Before faith can believe God’s promises to us, it needs to take hold the character of God towards us. If you’ve ever struggled to believe the promises of Scripture, maybe it’s because your God is too small. The measure of the reliability of the promises of Scripture toward you is not the strength of your faith in those promises but the strength of the God who makes the promises. God is the maker of all things, the Sovereign Lord, who rules even the hearts of men—we’re being reminded. He speaks reality into being. He sustains all things upholding them by the word of his power. The biblical doctrine of God is the antidote to the deadly toxin of doubt. Take hold of the great doctrine of God. Remind yourself who you really worship and follow and serve and in whose image you have been made and by whom you have been redeemed. Take hold of the truth about God. Arm yourself with fresh views of his sovereignty and power and then turn to his promises and you will find faith garrisoned against the attacks of doubt.
And, so armed with this expansive view of God, look at the picture Zechariah paints of Israel’s future. First of all, notice the life of the people of God is set in the context of a terrible struggle—isn’t it? He speaks of Jerusalem under siege. It is to be, he says, “like a cup of staggering,” verse 2. Under siege and yet potent and powerful and ultimately triumphant. Remember, Zechariah is using Old Testament images to describe the spiritual conflict in which the whole church in the new covenant era is, today, engaged.
An Enduring Church
John L. McKay, my old Hebrew professor, Bill’s [Schweitzer] Hebrew professor as well, back in Scotland says this about this verse: “This depiction of a siege of Jerusalem portrays in Old Testament dress the reality of the ongoing hostility between the world and the people of God. But, God is assuring his church that no matter how intense the conflict and how hard-pressed they will be by the world’s persecution, he will make them instrumental in overthrowing their persecutors. ‘The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet,’” Romans 16:20. And so the prophet depicts the church like a heavy stone that only injures those who try to move it, verse 3. What a wonderful picture of the stability and immovability of the church. Here’s the church: not a temporary institution under threat. Will it survive? Who can tell? Not held together by the best ingenuity and creativity of its leaders surviving only by the good graces of popular opinion. Not at all! Here is the church: an immovable rock against which the nations dash themselves to pieces. The nations won’t survive forever. The world, even the elements themselves, the Scriptures say, will melt away one day, but the church, the church, will last forever. The church will endure forever.
An Invincible and Expanding Church
The same idea of the church’s invincibility comes out in verse 6, notice. Zechariah uses a different metaphor this time for God’s people. Not now an immovable stone but a blazing fire pot used to transfer flames to the hearth. Or, like a flaming torch that ignites the dry stalks after the harvest. The idea is God will make his church potent and its influence will spread. Let us carefully that between those two metaphors—that the church is an immovable stone, the church as spreading flame of fire—stands the church’s own testimony in verse 5: “Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the Lord of hosts their God.’” He gets the glory. He alone is the strength and power and the source of the invincibility of his church. And verses 7-9 the whole is summed up in terms of God giving salvation to his people, full and complete salvation. Pay special attention to the words of verse 8: “The weakest member of the community God will make like King David”. And the house of David [referring to a Davidic king] God will make like God himself like the angel of the Lord who led Israel out of bondage in Egypt in the Exodus.
It’s a remarkable promise isn’t it? The weakest will be like David and David’s heir like God himself effecting a new redemption from slavery. I might borrow a phrase from Francis Schaeffer: “In the church of Jesus Christ there are no little people.” That’s what Schaeffer said. “In the church of Jesus Christ there are no little people.” That’s what Zechariah is saying. You become like David, a man after God’s own heart, heir of the covenant promises. Kings and priests, as we saw from 1 Peter chapter 2 and verse 9, to serve our God and declare the praises of him who brought us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. And ruling us and saving us and delivering us through a new exodus—great David’s greater son, the one like God, the angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ himself. The Lord saves his people. What a glorious thing it is to belong to the church. What a destiny is ours. What a future is the church militant one day will become the church triumphant. And the cause of the gospel advances unstopped, unstoppable under the Lordship of King Jesus. What God will do for us: he will keep us. More than that, even, he will cause his fame and renown to spread and his Gospel to triumph.
II. What God will do In Us: He will Convert His People
And, secondly, look at verses 10-14. Here the prophet steps back a little. If this is what God will do for the church, the question we need to answer, the question Zechariah answers for us is “How do we come to belong to this church, this immovable, invincible, victorious church? How will God take idol-prone people like the people then living in the land of Judah, the returned exiles, frankly like you and me, how will he take our idol-prone hearts and change them so that the church is victorious like this?” Look at the passage, 10-14. Here’s what God will do in us. What God will do for us. What he will do in us.
First of all, we’re told how he will work. Verse 10: “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit,” or better the Spirit, capital “S,” the spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, grace and supplication. The church, you know, is the product of the authorization of the spirit of God. To enter into the benefits of salvation, we must first become the subjects of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Notice here he’s called the spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, grace and supplication.
Real Conversion: Pleas for Grace and Evidence of Grace
Those two phrases, grace and pleas for mercy, actually share the same root in Hebrew. What Zechariah says is that God’s Spirit is the one who gives grace and then who generates in our hearts cries for grace. He’s saying that both the reality and the longing are the products of his work in us. Or, to put it different—and this is vital—so listen carefully: our cries for grace are not what activate God’s grace in our lives. Our cries for grace are not what activates God’s grace in our lives at least not initially. Rather, our cries for grace are themselves the evidence that God’s grace has already been at work. They are the fruit of the work of grace by the Holy Spirit’s powerful ministry. Our repentance, our faith, and every consequent cry of hearts to God have their ultimate source and spring, not in ourselves, never ultimately in ourselves, but in the inward secret working of the spirit of grace and supplication. When God saves sinners for the first time, he does it by the work of the spirit of grace and supplication. When God revives his church bringing renewed penitence and power, he does it by pouring out again, the spirit of grace and supplication. This is what we need to look for and pray for and wait for—isn’t it, brothers and sisters? This is what we so badly need: a fresh outpouring, a fresh effusion of the spirit of grace and supplication.
There are no mechanics we can employ. There are no methods we can manipulate, no tools we can use, to effect the gathering in of sinners or the growth of the church. None. There’s all the difference in the world between numerical growth and real conversion, you know? Let’s beware of confusing the two. Let’s resist at all costs the temptation to look to men and to methods for the maintenance and progress of the church. Let’s instead look where Zechariah points us: to God alone to give us a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit of grace and pleas for mercy. That’s the great need of the age. The first evidence of a renewed work of the Holy Spirit among us will certainly be a rising, swelling, urgent cry persistent, pleading cry from this congregation that he would give us more of Christ through his Word and through the means of grace, more of the mighty operations of his Spirit leveling the hard resistance of sinners and drawing them to the Savior and igniting in us joy in the gospel and a determination to live for the honor of Jesus name.
God Himself pierced?
Notice, the one who is speaking throughout Zechariah 12 is the Lord. Which means, he’s the one who says in verse 10, when the Spirit of grace and supplication is being poured out, what will happen. They will look on me on the one whom they have pierced. How can it be that the Lord God himself will be pierced? Only in Christ crucified. Only at the cross can it be that “the Lord who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man” within him is himself “pierced for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.” That’s why, as the Roman soldier pierced Jesus side in John 19:37, the apostle John cites this verse, Zechariah 12:10, as being partially fulfilled in Jesus. God Incarnate was pierced. But, Zechariah’s concern here is not so much with the manner of the crucifixion as it is with our response to it. When the Spirit is poured out on sinners, how will they respond? They will look up on the incarnate God, pierced for sinners, in a new way. No longer are they able to shrug off the cross, the message of the gospel as old news. No longer will they dismiss the crucified Christ as an irrelevance. Now, they will mourn. They will look on him who they have pierced and they will mourn. Because they see no longer just the fact of the cross; they see their own complicity in it.
That’s what we see happening in Scripture, precisely this. Remember in Acts 2:37 when the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the church, the spirit of grace and supplication, and Peter stands up and preaches Christ crucified? And as the Spirit begins to work, what happens in the crowd? They are cut to the heart. They mourn and cry out, “What must we do to be saved?” That’s it. That’s what Zechariah is talking about. They saw Christ crucified. In the new light, they saw their complicity in nailing him to the tree, their sin that required this horror, the immolation and death of the God man, and they are cut to the heart.
My dear friend, do you know anything, of that heart cry as you see the reality of your sin? Can you say with the hymn writer, “Behold the man upon the cross my sin upon his shoulders. Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held him there until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.” That’s how Zechariah describes the cry of a repentant heart as the Spirit of grace and supplication brings conviction and conversion.
Real Conversion vs. Mere Convincing
Notice, too, that—according to the prophet—it is intense. That’s the point of the end of verse 10. He says it will be like the mourning of someone who has lost their firstborn. Intense conviction of sin. Notice, too, that it’s universal. That’s the point of 11-14. Everyone experiences this in the community, from royalty on down through every strata of the society. None are excepted. Conviction of sin is a universal reality in the heart of every Christian. The point, I think, is this: True conversion is never a matter of intellectual persuasion alone. You haven’t been converted yet if you’ve merely been convinced. You haven’t been converted yet if you’ve merely been persuaded. There must be heart work done. There must be conviction of sin. You must see your sin on the Savior’s shoulders and you must cry out for mercy. I’d venture to say that in light of the text here that one of the great evidences of a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our day will be a new debt awareness of the sinfulness of sin and new grief over its continued presence in our hearts. What God does for us. He keeps his church. What God does in us. He converts his church.
III. What He will do To Us: He will Cleanse His People
And, finally and briefly, what God does to us. Chapter 13 verse 1-6. There is an individual and there is a corporate component to the message of these six verses.
Cleansing: An Individual Dimension
The individual component is the point of verse 1. Take a look at it with me. Verse 1: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” Here is the accomplishment, the achievement of the cross. It’s couched here in terms of Old Testament water-purification rituals. But, the message, I hope, is clear enough. Because of the pierce, sin-bearing Savior, sinners can be made clean. You can be made clean. You can be made clean because of Jesus. “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins and sinners plunged beneath lose all their guilty stains.” Some of you have not yet come to that fountain for cleansing. You’ve never yet come to Jesus asking him to make you clean. Understand, there is no other way. Maybe you’ve been like Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth. She was sleep-walking, you remember the scene. She’s sleep-walking dreaming about the blood of the king of Scotland whom she and her husband conspired to murder, actually staining her hands, and she cries out, “Out, out damned spot!” She can’t get clean, you see. Nothing she can do can get her clean. She cannot remove the stain. And you can’t remove yours either. But, there is a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He himself is the propitiation for our sins. And not for ours only but also for the whole world. There’s room for you in the wounds of Jesus. He can make you clean. You need to stop trying to fix it on your own and you need to flee to Christ who alone can rescue you.
A Call to Flee to the Cleansing Fountain of Christ
And, others, I suspect, have come to Christ. He has made you clean. Sin and uncleanness have been washed away. Today, you stand forgiven, righteous in the sight of God except you refuse to believe it. I want to be careful here. It’s always right to be ashamed of sin, always. In fact, if you’re a Christian, you claim to be a Christian, and you don’t grieve over your sin, you’re not really a Christian. It is a Christian heart that grieves over sin. But, when you confess your sin and you mourn over it and you flee with it to the wounds of Jesus for cleansing, some of us have the hardest time believing the promise of the gospel, that his blood can make the foulest clean. Let me say this to you with all love, brothers and sisters, that is not humility to continue driving yourself in an attempt to new obedience with shame and self-reproach after you’ve fled for pardon to Christ. That is not godliness, that is unbelief. Christ promises to make you clean. And when you flee to him for grace he always keeps his words. If you trust him, you are clean. Receive the promise of the gospel and live for his glory in new obedience with a grateful heart. Not driven by shame but by joy that your Savior has redeemed you.
Cleansing: A Corporate Dimension
And, then, in 2-6, very, very quickly, there’s a corporate dimension too, isn’t there? The cleansing doesn’t just deal with our hearts it deals with the community. The Lord cleanses the people of God from idols and from false prophets. Idols go. False prophets and the spiritual powers standing behind them, what he calls the spirits of uncleanness, go when the Lord begins to renew and revive his church. Becomes a hostile environment for false teachers and for false teaching especially. There is a zero tolerance policy of error in the church. That comes out in the stunning words of verse 3: even parents of false prophets will not tolerate their presence in the community. So unacceptable will teaching lies be that those who have previously done so will find all sorts of lame excuses as they try to avoid being found out in their sin, verse 5. You’ll even try to explain away the wounds that were inflicted in pagan ritual, verse 6. Listen to John L. McKay again: “The people who are blessed with the knowledge of their spiritual cleansing act in intense and absolute loyalty to the Lord to insure that there is nothing in their land that is inconsistent with the acknowledgement of him as their covenant king. This comes finally through,” he says, “in the new Jerusalem of which it is said, ‘Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who ever does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. And outside are the dogs and those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolators, and everyone who practices falsehood’ (Revelation 21:27 and 22:15).”
On, one day soon, one day soon, the church, like our hearts, will be made holy and we, together with all God’s people, will be made perfectly holy. The work of Christ will be complete. Sin will go. Idolatry will go. False teaching will end. The church militant will be the church triumphant. Until then, we need to remember we are in process. That means we have to work hard to hold two realities in tension. On the one hand, the call to holiness, personally and corporately, that’s a real call and we must pursue it with vigor. Church discipline is a command not a recommendation. Sanctification is an obligation, not a suggestion. But on the other hand growing personal holiness should reveal itself in growing patience with others who are at different stages in the process. Should mean patience when the church isn’t all she should be or could be quite yet. There was a sign once erected in a hotel lobby as the hotel underwent some remodeling. That sign really ought to be nailed above the door of every church member and above every church. The sign read, “Please be patient with us. We are under reconstruction.” “Please be patient with us. We are under reconstruction.” That’s what’s going on. What’s happening in your heart and in our assembly. We are under reconstruction. One day soon, wonderfully, the work will be complete, sin will be gone and Christ will have perfect supremacy among us.
What God does for us. He keeps the church. What he does in us. He converts his church. What he does to us. He cleanses his church. My prayer for you is that you all would know the cleansing grace of God in Jesus. Let us pray.
Our Father, we are so grateful for the gospel that there is power to make the foulest clean. There’s a wideness in the wounds of our Savior expansive enough for us all. Oh Lord, grant that we may, all of us, anew flee to Jesus and receive and rest on him believing his promise, accepting the truth, living for his glory that in him we are “ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.” In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
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