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Text – Zechariah 11
Today we're going to look at one of the harsher passages in scripture, where Christ breaks his covenant with the people Israel and destroys them as a nation, since they have rejected him and esteemed him as nothing. This passage is extremely prophecy rich and will be important for us to remember that Zechariah is written over 500 years before Christ walked the earth, and that it perfectly predicted key events in his life.
What are some prophecies from Zechariah that Christ has already fulfilled? Humble and riding on a donkey; priest and king; the removal of sin in a single day; good shepherd.
How is Christ the good shepherd? Because he laid down his life for his sheep. What was his reaction to those who were bad shepherds? Fierce anger. What were those shepherds doing with the sheep? Selling them for profit, treating them like merchandise. Are these literal sheep, or do they represent something else? They represent people, the flock of God, and we know that God cares for his flock. What is the result of those who had rejected God and were putting their whole hope in possessions and things of this world? That is the first three verses of chapter 11, which we looked at last time,
Zechariah 11:1-3 Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars! Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, for the glorious trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan, for the thick forest has been felled! The sound of the wail of the shepherds, for their glory is ruined! The sound of the roar of the lions, for the thicket of the Jordan is ruined!
Things of this world will completely pass away, they will be burned, felled, ruined, destroyed, and the wail of those who put their trust in material wealth or themselves will show that they have nothing for all of eternity. Today we're going to look at some of those people; people who don't care for the flock at all.
Zechariah 11:4-17 Thus said the LORD my God: "Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter. Those who buy them slaughter them and go unpunished, and those who sell them say, 'Blessed be the LORD, I have become rich,' and their own shepherds have no pity on them. For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of this land, declares the LORD. Behold, I will cause each of them to fall into the hand of his neighbor, and each into the hand of his king, and they shall crush the land, and I will deliver none from their hand." So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep. In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me. So I said, "I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another." And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples. So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD. Then I said to them, "If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them." And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"— the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD, to the potter. Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. Then the LORD said to me, "Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs. "Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!"
So if we remember from chapter 10, that God is fiercely angry with the shepherds who don't care for the flock, he is going to replace these with someone else. At this point, from the New Testament, we can see that these false shepherds, while representing many people throughout history, like kings, popes, and false teachers, here are ultimately the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes. We've looked at Matthew 23 a few times in this class, do you remember what happens in that passage? Jesus declares seven "woes" on the Pharisees, calling them blind guides and utterly condemning them, totally angry that they were keeping men out of Heaven. The very last verses in that passage will really come alive after we look at Zechariah. So at this point, God has rejected these shepherds, we might say that this happened explicitly in
Matthew 21:43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.
Now the command to Christ,
v.4 Thus said the LORD my God: "Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter."
This is a recurring theme throughout scripture, Psalm 23, John 10, Isaiah 40 (which we'll read at the end), and namely when Christ fed the 5,000 on the shores of Galilee.
Mark 6:34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
These were like sheep without a shepherd, but we see here in Zechariah that they had shepherds, they were just terrible shepherds.
v.5 Those who buy them slaughter them and go unpunished, and those who sell them say, 'Blessed be the LORD, I have become rich,' and their own shepherds have no pity on them.
At this point the shepherds, the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes, become not so much shepherds, but sheep-traders, as they'll be called in a moment, and they are over people not in a teaching/leading role, but only for the money, leading them to slaughter apart from God and Christ. They even go so far as to thank God for the money they have received in their evil dealings, treating people as objects and serving greed.
This was done in a variety of ways, one way was by requiring special temple money which had to be purchased, another way was in selling the sacrificial animals at exorbitant prices, and yet another was in taking tithes and offerings while doing nothing for the people. Some of these riches were not monetary, but in pride and selfishness, with the rabbis taking the best seats at parties and way overdressing themselves so people would know they were the super-righteous dudes. At this point we think, "I should feel sorry for these sheep." But we're going to see that their leaders are only half the problem.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
These people under these shepherds weren't complaining for the bad teaching they were receiving, but were glad to be told they could work their way into Heaven. This happens even today, probably moreso today, that people like Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar and Perry Noble and Ed Young Jr. are only in it for the money and prestige, but if no-one was following them, they wouldn't be shepherds. The shepherds are a huge problem, the but biggest problem is the people who follow them.
v.6-7 For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of this land, declares the LORD. Behold, I will cause each of them to fall into the hand of his neighbor, and each into the hand of his king, and they shall crush the land, and I will deliver none from their hand." So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep.
Because of their constant rejection, God is furious, yet here we see that Christ did indeed for a little while take the position of Shepherd of Israel. We see that from the feeding of the 5,000, when he saw them as sheep without a shepherd, he felt compassion on them, he made them sit on the green grass and he fed them, and taught them. These sheep, sold for slaughter, had a very good Shepherd.
Mark 6:39-42 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied.
Yet because they rejected him, in verse six of Zechariah 11 we see that that Christ will no longer have pity on these people, that he has caused a great destruction to come on these people. If they had stayed under his protection, they would have had nothing to fear, but we'll see in a bit that they reject him as their Shepherd. If Christ is our Shepherd and we have not rejected him, then we have great promises in his ability to guide us and bring us home to Heaven:
Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
These two staffs are used to guide the sheep and protect them from enemies, and as long as we're under the care of our Master, his favor and union keep us perfectly safe, and in the context of the passage, we're looking at the flock being the nation of Israel, and later the Holy Nation that is the church. The nation Israel is about to be rejected, where-as from chapter 10 we remember that the church will not lose even a single member.
v.8 In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me.
Some believe, and I with them, that this was accomplished in Matthew 22 when they brought arguments to Christ to trip him up in his theology and show that he wasn't God, and he answered perfectly in every situation. I hope you'll take an opportunity sometime this week to read Matthew 22, but today for time's sake, we'll move on in Zechariah.
Matthew 22:46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
We see that they also detested Christ; this is important because the word translated as impatient is considerably stronger than mere disdain, it is probably best translated as loathe, Christ loathed these shepherds for their failures, and they hated him for showing the world that they were terrible rabbis and shepherds. Proverbs 6:16-19, the way this verse is structured, we won't read it again for time's sake, but Proverbs 6:16 and 19 say that God HATES the false witness, and here we see clearly that he is furious with these Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes who neither enter into Heaven, nor allow those who would enter to go in.
A major part of his rejection was that the Jews were always seeking material possessions, ignoring the One who sustained them, we see this expressed exceedingly clearly the day after the feeding of the 5,000,
John 6:25-26 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves."
v.9-11 So I said, "I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another." And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples. So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD.
Here is where the rejection ultimately begins. The Jews were, and many still are, trusting in an OLD covenant given by God which was conditional and required the people to abstain from idols and love God and their neighbor and offer sacrifices and having utterly failed in this works-covenant, we see here that favor between God and them is broken, annulled, canceled, ceased. They are without favor in the sight of God for their constant rejection of him.
The Sheep-Traders, who are again our Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes, see and know that Christ is speaking for God, but they reject it anyways, their hearts were unbelievably hard and instead of submitting to him as Lord, they sought a way to kill him. As they reject him as Shepherd, he recognizes their desire and he asks for his wages here in Zechariah, here is how it plays out:
v.12-13 Then I said to them, "If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them." And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"— the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD, to the potter.
Thirty pieces of silver are roughly the price of a slave. Consider here who this Shepherd is, the King of Glory, and they esteemed him as worth slave-labor. Then this amount was thrown to the potter in the House of the Lord. Does this event sound familiar to anyone?
Matthew 26:14-16 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
The name Judas comes directly from Judah, one of the kingdoms of the nation Israel, and here we can very easily allegorize that Judas was a representative of the whole nation, that he has rejected Christ and is selling him for thirty pieces of silver, roughly $100 in our money. If only Judas and the Pharisees had known this scripture better, they ought to have repented and fallen down and worshipped Christ, but they pushed forward with their plan. Christ, however, did know this prophecy quite well,
John 13:21-27 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table close to Jesus, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas,the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly."
Now, Judas has sold Christ, he has the silver, but the money has not been thrown to the Potter in the Lord's House, how then is this going to take place?
Matthew 27:3-7 When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." They said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself." And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money." So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers.
v.14 Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
This occurred forty years later when the Romans made an effort to destroy the whole people of Israel, murdering about a million people. During the siege it even came to pass where Zechariah said they would devour themselves; cannibalism took place during this time. And Israel was banished from being a country for almost 2,000 years, and today not only is there no strong bond between Israel and Judah, many Jews don't even know which tribe or kingdom their genealogies come from.
Now, having rejected the true Shepherd, the Jews are still looking for a Messiah, for a shepherd who will bring them back to a world power and save them. None will come, but for their insolence, the wrath of God will come upon them, and this next passage occurs sometime in the future, when a shepherd will arise over Israel, but not at all a good one. Here we get a fuzzy view of Antichrist, a failure as a messiah, a failure as a shepherd, a failure as a false god, and a failure as a savior, but the reward for all who reject the true Christ.
v.15-17 Then the LORD said to me, "Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs. "Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!"
This false shepherd will not care for anyone, he will be only concerned with his own gain, with his own wealth and reputation, and care nothing for the flock. Ed Young Jr., a Southern Baptist apostate, recently coerced his whole church into giving more tithes through a mandatory direct deposit system. In his example we can see that there will be one main false shepherd, but that there are no lack of false shepherds, they devour their flock, they drive them so hard that their hooves are torn to tatters which can probably be spiritualized that they preach legalism and never allow their flock to rest in Christ, and ultimately they don't care for their flock. Perry Noble, one of the greatest antichrists operating today, publically told his congregation not to expect him to visit them at home or even in the hospital.
And in all of this, we see that these false shepherds are powerless to see what is right or to do what is right, and that he is ultimately worthless. Because of Israel's rejection of the Messiah and the false teachers who stood between God and Israel, and the false commands they taught, we see what Christ preached at the end of Matthew 23 come true:
Matthew 23:37-38 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate."
So we see in all of this that the Old Covenant has ceased, the New has come. The Old was conditional and required constant upkeep, but Christ in his perfection has offered himself once for all, being a perfect sacrifice, saving to the uttermost those who draw near to him. The Covenant that the Jews hold to today is obsolete, it cannot save, they are rejected as the Nation of God, where-by the church has been adopted into this role.
Hebrews 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
And finally, Christ is our better Shepherd, trust in him, know that you have his favor and union if you hold fast to the confession of faith you have in him, not trusting in yourself or a covenant, but trusting in him who died for your sins and was raised for your justification.
Let's conclude with one of my favorite passages in all of scripture:
Isaiah 40:9-11 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!" Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.