ZECHARIAH-SERIES NR 14
Theme: The Good Shepherd & the second Exodus
In a nutshell, Zechariah 10 is a divine rebuke as well as a breath-taking promise.
The Lord is speaking through the mouth of His prophet Zechariah and He is rebuking the people of Judah – particularly their leaders – because they are seeking their wisdom and advice from idols – while the Lord himself is their Shepherd. A shepherd is someone who walks ahead and the flock follows behind. Eventually the Messiah would be the Shepherd-King. As David was shepherd-king. In the OT prophets the Messiah is sometimes represented as the great Shepherd-king – for example in Ezekiel 34 and Jeremiah 23.
Here is chapter 10 in a nutshell: The Lord is saying: “You are doing very wrong by looking for wisdom from idols. But NEVERTHELESS my answer to you is THIS: I am going to send the Great Shepherd-King. You shall follow HIM and be blessed.”
Is this not precisely the REVERSE of how our human thinking operates? A thousand times contrary! WE would have thought that the Lord would rebuke His people by saying: “Because you look for wisdom from the idols, I distance myself from you, that is final! Go to the idols if that is what you want.”
But no, what does the Lord say? “THIS is the way I am going to correct and uphold you. I am going to send you the long expected Shepherd-king because of pure undeserved favour alone. The Shepherd that will walk out ahead and show you the way.”
How absolutely praiseworthy and glorious is the Lord God! So totally the complete Different One. His heart is beating simply so utterly different than ours, but precisely in that is found our salvation, our hope, our expectation.
In Zechariah 10 we find a classic example of how the Lord is giving Israel a promise for the future that in the end is fulfilled in the NT Church that consists of in-Christ-saved-Jews-and-Non-Jews.
In chapter 10 the Jews are promised a number of significant things that were never literally fulfilled like that in history. And keep in mind that the Northern ten tribes – had been taken into Assyrian Exile and was never restored – are also included in what is promised in Zechariah 10. We know that those ten tribes actually disappeared – they became part of the nations of the world. The Samaritans – in the time of Jesus – were interbred members of those ten tribes – called EPHRAIMITES in this chapter.
After the northern tribes had been taken into exile to Assyria (approximately 740 BC) they never again returned and only Judah and Benjamin (southern tribes) remained. Later THEY too were taken into exile, but to Babylon, and were restored and returned to Palestine 70 years later. When we mention “Jews” or “Israel“, then we are referring to the southern two tribes who eventually returned from the Babylonian Exile. It is out of JUDAH that the Lord Jesus was to be born. It is these Jews – restored from exile – that Zechariah is addressing in these chapters.
BUT: In Zechariah 10 the Lord is giving promises for the future of ALL 12 TRIBES – Ephraim is included with Judah! And He is saying the strangest things. He mentions things that have not been fulfilled in Jewish history even until today. He says, amongst other things, that they would return from where they have been after God had rejected them. They will be restored. Including the Ephraimites. They will return as mighty men from the battle. God will once more gather them and save and increase their numbers. They were scattered among the nations, but will return to Palestine and to God. The Lord will gather them from places like Egypt and also from Assyria. They will – like the nation passed through the Red Sea – pass through the sea of trouble and the surging sea will be subdued and the Nile will dry up. And so the Assyrian and Egyptian kingdoms will come to an end.
Now we must understand clearly: Zechariah is communicating these things to the Jews in Jerusalem approximately 5 centuries before the birth of Christ. Throughout the centuries until the coming of Christ and the 2000 years since, the above mentioned has not happened to the Jews! The Assyrian Empire ended about 100 years previously. Never was there a second Exodus where the Jews passed through a sea.
How then should we understand this chapter? A great percentage of the church today understand it to be promises that will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ at the end of the age. In other words: Before Jesus’s appearance, God will gather all the Israelites out of all the nations where they are scattered – ALSO those descended from the Northern ten tribes who got interbred with the nations after the Assyrian Exile. God will gather EVERYONE and bring them back to the land Israel and then they will repent after which (among other things) the promises of Zechariah 10 will be fulfilled.
Personally I think that the safest route to take is to look at what the New Testament has to think and say about this matter. And especially Romans 9-11 where the Apostle Paul in no uncertain terms explains what the future holds for the Jewish nation.
In a nutshell, Romans 9-11 teaches the following:
Not everyone who physically/ ethically belongs to the nation Israel is the TRUE Israel, but only those who are chosen in Christ and are true believers. And the same applies to the Non-Jewish nations (gentiles). Through a centuries-old process of ON THE ONE HAND the softening of the hearts of some, and ON THE OTHER HAND the hardening of the hearts of others, God is continuously busy saving and gathering His true church, the true Israel – consisting of both Jews and gentiles.
Are all the ethnic Israelites from all the 12 tribes saved at the second coming? No. Have all the Jews now missed the boat? No, everyone who is chosen in Christ, comes to salvation. And what about the Non-Jews, the gentiles? All who are chosen in Christ, come to salvation. Who then is the nation of God today? Everyone who comes to salvation in Christ: Jews as well as non-Jews. And who are those who come to salvation in Christ? Those who have been elected according to grace – that is the “full number of Gentiles” and “all Israel” referred to in Romans 9-11. “Full number” and “all” do not mean every single individual, but the full number of people who were chosen/elected before creation already. Read Romans 9-11 and you will see it.
Where and in whom are the promises of Zechariah 10 fulfilled? In the NT Church – all those saved-in-Christ from the Jews and the non-Jews.
There is a very important KEY in Zechariah 10 that unlocks the meaning of this chapter. And one can easily miss it. Come let us follow the prophet’s (the Lord’s) argument and then you will easily discover the key.
In the semi-desert climate the nation of God was very dependent on rain – particularly for agricultural purposes. And the temptation to call on the idol Baal for assistance was always present. Baal was the pagan god of fertility who “controlled” weather conditions – that is what those pagans believed. And often the Lord’s people were led into temptation by their own leaders (kings, prophets, priests) to look to Baal for help and wisdom. Especially if God did not bring relief quickly enough. Or when the Lord did not satisfy their expectations. False shepherds therefore. Not only spiritual false shepherds, but also government leaders.
There is a great responsibility that rests upon the shepherds – leaders. The Lord says that He will punish the leaders. Because His flock is precious in His eyes. Whoever ravage and mislead and lead them into ruin, will have to give account to the living God – it is only a matter of time.
That is why the Lord is rebuking His people, saying: You must ask ME for rain. Whatever the idols say, is deceit. Diviners see visions that lie. It is demons that work and speak through them. They comfort with a comfort that does not exist. It is like wind. Wretchedness is the result of it. Its occultism. Evil spirits work through idols and leave you without hope, without a future. Like a flock without a shepherd. Woe to the false shepherds who expose God’s flock to these evil influences. With the best intentions, of course.
To consult the spirits for wisdom or to reveal the future is emphatically forbidden in Deut 18:9-14. It is sin. True wisdom is of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7).
It is within this context that verse 4 takes a surprising turn. Suddenly God does NOT come with what everyone expects – namely judgment. Instead He comes with a promise: From this very same Judah will come the cornerstone (the stone upon which the building is anchored). The tent peg. The battle bow and arrow. All images that refer to the coming Messiah. In Isaiah 28:16 already He was prophesied as the Cornerstone and the NT confirms it in 1 Peter 2:6-8. Jesus is indeed the cornerstone the OT referred to. And He DID come from the tribe of Judah (Heb 7:14).
Verse 4 is the hinge that the rest of the chapter hinges on. Because what does the Lord God promise here? He says: ”Your shepherds have put you on a false track, but I am going to send the Good Shepherd. The Cornerstone, the foundation whereupon the kingdom rests. Everything depends on Him, like a tent peg”.
This promise was fulfilled 5 centuries later when the little Child was laid in a manger at Bethlehem. And the rest of the words in verses 5-12 is fulfilled in everyone who builds upon this Cornerstone – the past 2000 years already and further into the future – however long it may be ordained in God’s divine Plan!
You see, the coming of the Cornerstone changes the entire character of the rest of the chapter – which promises the following:
“Whoever follows this true Shepherd – the Cornerstone – will be like a horse in battle, like mighty men who put the enemy to take flight. Whoever follows this Shepherd, are the people who are returning to God out of all the distant lands. They will be like people who have never been lost. God is their God and their prayers are heard. Therefore they are filled with gladness and other people will see it and be drawn near. And they will be numerous. Like the stars in heaven – as God promised Abraham. And their children will be included, because it is all still in fulfilment of My covenant. Their children will be joyful and together I will gather them in. They will live in My name. I will strengthen them. They will be people who are literally saved – as the ancient nation was saved out of Egypt and passed through the Red Sea out from the power of the Pharaoh. Yes, whoever follows the true Shepherd, the Cornerstone, the tent peg, the bow and arrow, the Messiah, the Christ, shall be saved from the clutches of the enemy. They will be my people and I will be their God.”
These words are the exact promises contained in verses 5-12. And when we hear it like that, we suddenly realise: “All of that is true of the true church of Jesus Christ here and now! Wonderful! They are not promises that are kept apart, kept on ice, for the Jews SOMETIME in the future! They are promises that are here and now YES & AMEN, IN CHRIST and for all Christ-believers! Everyone who is building their lives upon the Cornerstone and who is resting upon the tent peg. Everyone who is living under the protective power of the bow and arrow. It is Christ, the Messiah. Jesus of Nazareth. “
These powerful evangelical promises must strengthen Christians in 2020 in the struggle against the temptation to seek help and advice from idols. And also the struggle against false shepherds. Those are the two issues that the Holy Spirit opens for perusal in verses 1-3.
Actually, the influence of false shepherds and the serving of idols walk hand in hand. Because false shepherds deviate from the true Word of God and cause the church to trust and build upon untruths. And that results in a false christ taking the place of the true Christ. The church THINKS that it follows the truth and the true teaching and the true God, but in the meantime it is an idol. Frightening thought, but that is exactly what happens.
Does the New Testament confirm this truth? Yes.
In his struggle against false preachers and false apostles, the Apostle Paul calls upon the churches in Galatia and Colosse, saying: “Why did you turn to a DIFFERENT gospel? A false gospel that is in opposition to the Gospel I’ve preached to you. While there is no other. Do you not know that even if an angel should teach something else, he is cursed? It is ANOTHER Jesus and ANOTHER spirit and ANOTHER gospel that you have been taught – just like Eve was misled by the snake”.
Throughout the centuries, the results are the same: Church-people look for advice and guidance from idols. We have seen it during the recent lockdown when church services were closed, how Christians simply gobbled up any video that sounds or looks “right”. And thereby became caught up in pitfalls. It seems as if few people can discern the truth. They simply gobble up the content of any teaching they hear – particularly if it is what they like to hear.
We see in these days how many people’s courage fail because their investments and finances dwindle and they had their trust based upon it. People take refuge in anything and anyone that they think can help and give advice. Anything that they think can make their lives better in this time of pandemic. Sometimes they put their trust in the humanistic principles they receive from psychiatric advisers – without undergoing Christ’s life changes and breaking with sin. They want advice and help, without repentance and surrender to the Cornerstone. God and Jesus often become convenient household gods – to whom I can pray when I feel like it. Household gods who are agreeable and can make me feel good. Christ Jesus is reduced to a Baal idol that must make me prosperous. He must provide, otherwise I will look elsewhere. Or become an atheist. And the prosperity preachers on YouTube shamelessly preach this Baal-religion and reinforce the gullible in their error.
See what happens in the 21st century when false shepherds hand their flock over to the wolves?
A new EXODUS is needed. A DEPARTURE out of Egypt. A God-given deliverance out of the power of Pharaoh, a passing through the subdued sea, an entry into the promised land. Yes, verse 11 of Zechariah 10 suggests this. Messiah shall do this, he promises. Because in the place of the idolatry and false shepherds, God sets the Cornerstone – the true Christ.
What is also of course promised in Zechariah 10, is that which will be the eventual outcome of everything at the end of time. We already know what the end will purport. The cornerstone, the tent peg, the bow and arrow shall be the conqueror and everyone with/in Him that He leads out of this fallen world.
Nobody who endeavours to build on the Scriptures and follow the true Shepherd, shall ever regret it. That is true and certain!
Translated by Marthie Wilson