Zechariah Bible Study # 16
Zechariah Chapter 11
The Rejection of the True Shepherd and the Rule of the False
That a fire may feed on your cedars.2 Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen,
Because the glorious trees have been destroyed;
Wail, O oaks of Bashan,
For the impenetrable forest has come down.3 There is a sound of the shepherds’ wail,
For their glory is ruined;
There is a sound of the young lions’ roar,
For the pride of the Jordan is ruined.
4 Thus says the Lord my God, “Pasture the flock doomed to slaughter. 5 Those who buy them slay them and go unpunished, and each of those who sell them says, ‘Blessed be the Lord, for I have become rich!’ And their own shepherds have no pity on them. 6 For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of the land,” declares the Lord; “but behold, I will cause the men to fall, each into another’s power and into the power of his king; and they will strike the land, and I will not deliver them from their power.”
7 So I pastured the flock doomed to slaughter, hence the afflicted of the flock. And I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Favor and the other I called Union; so I pastured the flock. 8 Then I annihilated the three shepherds in one month, for my soul was impatient with them, and their soul also was weary of me. 9 Then I said, “I will not pasture you. What is to die, let it die, and what is to be annihilated, let it be annihilated; and let those who are left eat one another’s flesh.” 10 I took my staff Favor and cut it in pieces, to break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples. 11 So it was broken on that day, and thus the afflicted of the flock who were watching me realized that it was the word of the Lord. 12 I said to them, “If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not,never mind!” So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. 13 Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.” So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord. 14 Then I cut in pieces my second staff Union, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
15 The Lord said to me, “Take again for yourself the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 16 For behold, I am going to raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for the perishing, seek the scattered, heal the broken, or sustain the one standing, but will devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off their hoofs.
17 “Woe to the worthless shepherd
Who leaves the flock!
A sword will be on his arm
And on his right eye!
His arm will be totally withered
And his right eye will be blind.”
God is perfect. He has both mercy and judgment. In fact, ultimately, these are the only two destinations of man. Crying out for the mercy of God or falling into the terrifying judgment of God. Judgment is not meant to be permanent. It is a wake-up call, to shake us out of slumbering, to tear away the veil of the temporary, to reveal the eternal.
Chapter 11 shows national apostasy and the consequent judgment. What happens to Israel on a national level, happens to us on an individual level.
Verse 1 – Fire comes from the North, a conquering, destroying army is on the move.
Verse 2 – The little trees lament the felling of the large and valuable trees, because the same fate awaits them.
Verse 3 – When the land is brought into judgment, the people suffer and cry out. The animals that relied on the rivers and the surrounding vegetation, that attracted other animals, -the young lions- cry out. Judgment is meant to cause us to cry out. But what are we crying out? If it is, “Why me?” “Why are You being so mean to us?” Then no answer is coming and we are falling far short of the purpose of the judgment. We are not seeing beyond our temporary needs, we are not seeing the eternal God. We are in fact, wasting the judgment. Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, David, were driven to their knees by judgment. They proclaimed their own sin and the righteousness of God's judgment and they cried out for mercy. Only mercy.
The remainder of the chapter is a parable/prophecy. We follow the mercy of God, responded to with total obstinacy from the people, resulting in the judgment of God. Baron puts this mostly as a prophecy of the 1st coming of Jesus to His people and their rejection of Him.
Verse 4 – The foreknowledge of God sees the end from the beginning, and knows that the first coming will not result in the ultimate victory and glory. This majority of this flock is blind and blinded.
Verse 5 – Rome, the gentile power that was in control, did not 'give a rip' about this people, they were just another, conquered province, to provide tax money and keep the nation that had conquered them powerful and 'on top.' Their own shepherds were now in a position of enjoying and maintaining their own power, they had long ago, 'sold out' the people to continue enjoying their own power and glory, limited and controlled as it was.
Verse 6 – Stick your ears in the air, anytime God's prophet says, “Behold” God is calling you to pay special attention. The lifting of the grace of God, is judgment. Israel is left uncovered and individuals in the land are left to themselves and immediately there is a 'turning on' each other, a devouring of themselves. Oh how we need the covering and protection of God. They are given over into the hand of the king of their own choosing. “We have no king, but Ceasar.” Less than 40 years later “Ceasar” ordered a wholesale devastation of the land and the people. “And I will not deliver them from their power.” Not at that time, but because the God who made amazing, “I will” promises to Israel, that they would be a light to the nations, is ever faithful and true, eventually, He will arise and rescue them and make them a righteous nation. So what we are actually seeing here is not the end of the story, but a suspension of grace and mercy until God determines it is time to start the next act in the play.
Verse 7 – There are times when the prophets were commanded to actually, “go and do” something as a physical act for the people to see. This may have been one of those occasions, where the actions of the prophet are made to be a site for the people to see and consider. Baron see the mention of the poor of the flock as saying that there are those who listened to the good Shepherd. Jesus did have a little remnant who heard and believed what He said. The two staffs, “Favor and Union” or “Pleasantness and Cords.” The Good Shepherd protects and cares for them, thus giving favor to the sheep, and His rule unites them. He feeds them, providing for them. The removal of grace is the judgment of God.
Verse 8 – I can't find much agreement on this verse but the option that made the most sense to me, is to go to Luke 9:22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” Here we find three categories of “shepherds” mentioned who were active at the time of Jesus and who were united in their rejection of Jesus. And since the temple sacrifices were about to stop and the religious system and the city of Jerusalem were about to be destroyed by Rome, one could say that in a relatively short time after they rejected Jesus, they were cut off. The cutting off of unrighteous rulers from the land is an act of judgment on the rulers, but it is an act of mercy on the nation and people as a whole.
Verse 9 – Again, the worst thing that can happen to us is for God to let us alone. Without grace we are death, headed for death, with a future of death. I recently got an insight that a lot of addiction and things related to it, have their root in an attitude that says, “I know what is best for me, and I can handle it.” Such a statement, and a life built with that as the foundation, leaves no room for the grace of God, and I can tell you where it is headed. Annihilation and death, knock, knock, they are at the door. Cain was warned by God, sin is at the door wanting to devour you. Cain ignored the warning because he thought he could handle it. We must not ignore the gracious warnings of God, we must be broken by them and throw ourselves on His mercy.
Verse 10 – “Favor” is broken, that little phrase would cause trembling in those who heard Zechariah, and one commentator wondered if the reality of what Zechariah was prophesying caused him to be targeted for murder between the porch and the altar. Luke 11:50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’ 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.” The covenant that is spoken of as being broken, is a covenant with the nations, not a covenant with Israel. So what is it? It is the grace of God that allowed even their enemies to be at peace with them. Without it, the enemies that surround and want to devour them get to act on their desire.
Verse 11 – Prophets can see future events so clearly that they speak of them in the past tense. A partial fulfillment of this comes in 70AD, but there is a yet future fulfillment that could not happen until the people of God were back in that land, they have yet to get full possession of Jerusalem, and begin to rebuild the temple, then the stage is set for the ultimate fulfillment. When the “poor of the flock” those who wait on God, the remnant preserved by God, sees the judgment of God they recognize the true word of prophecy coming to pass.
Verse 12 – Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is asking, “So what was all that faithful shepherding worth to you?” It is said that He was looking for repentance, faith, humble obedience. The parable of the vineyard in the Gospels corresponds to this. God sends His servants and finally His own Son. Instead of wages He is offered an insult. Thirty pieces of silver, the price the law prescribed for a slave that was gored to death by a neighbors ox. Our works which are equated to filthy rags are not the thanks that He wants.
Verse 13 – This insult is not to be received, it is to be “flung” thrown as hard as you would throw something you were absolutely disgusted with. Judas in remorse throws the money down that he betrayed Jesus for. The “blood money” is not kept but used to purchase a field and the name is given, “Potter's field.” God is so busy behind the scenes making things work out for His glory, it is amazing. The last thing they were thinking about was, “Oh we are fulfilling prophecy here,” but nevertheless they were.
Verse 14 – They are now left to turn on each other, devouring each other, and this is just a step in the process that leads to them turning to the anti-Christ. The nation is wide open to the assault of the enemy from outside their borders and they are turning on each other in a 'civil war' within their own country. If you have eyes to see, this internal, brewing hatred, between “classes” and ethnicity is being fomented in many nations throughout the earth. But specifically in Israel it will be raging. Jesus united the zealot and the tax collector, the shy and the out-going, the young and the old, when He withdraws His grace, division is everywhere.
Verse 15 – This shepherd is not just foolish, he is wicked. Whereas before when Zechariah picked up the instruments of a shepherd, he was portraying Jesus, he is now portraying the anti-Christ.
Verse 16 – This is a solemn picture of the ultimate destination of the pride of man. Refusing the rule of God we receive the fullness of the rule of the anti-Christ and his one and only goal is to devour us. He will not seek, he will not care, he will not gather, he will not heal, he will not sustain, He will devour, and this is no ordinary devouring, this is ripping apart the hooves to get to the little bit of meat that holds them together. This is total, he knows his end and he is furious, bent on destruction. We see a foretaste in the killer who can not be reasoned with who is just randomly shooting every living thing he sees. The Bible says in the times of the end because of lawlessness the love of many will grow cold. The fools who claim to love and want anarchy have no clue as to what they are proclaiming. When the weak are no longer protected, and the lost are no longer sought after, and the sick are no longer healed, we are at the gate of hell.
Verse 17 – Many say the anti-Christ will come from the Roman empire, but it must be remembered that this empire conquered many land, as did Alexander's empire. Daniel 8: 9 Out of one of them came forth a rather small horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful Land. Daniel 11:21 In his place a despicable person will arise, on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred, but he will come in a time of tranquility and seize the kingdom by intrigue. (In “his place” refers back to verse 15 talking about a king of the north. These are the only two clues in the Bible about the geographical origins of the anti-Christ. This shepherd of uselessness, has a fatal wound, that blinds the right eye and weakens one of his arms (doesn't say which one.) The anti-Christ, the final one, the ultimate one, is said to be a “mystery of lawlessness” like Christ was a “mystery of Godliness.” He will have no “spark of God” in Him, 100% incarnate evil. Most have this occurring after a fatal wound, that kills him and then the power of Satan fills him, making it appear like a resurrection, when it is actually a bodily possession. Satan is kicked out of heaven and has “a little time.” He knows this and he is 'fighting mad.' The 3 ½ years of “like never before” tribulation begins. Satan has an army of demons at his command, they are described in Joel. Of course, all of this is “under” the sovereign hand of God.