ZECHARIAH-SERIES NR 15
Theme: Tragedy at full speed
The Covid19 pandemic has come to teach us one thing: Tragedy is not pleasant. No one wants to see it again. Particularly where loss of life is involved. All one can positively do, is to try and take lessons out of what has happened. But, one thing is certain: nobody likes tragedies.
Zechariah 11 is an analysis of the greatest tragedy in the history of man. The interesting thing is that it was not written after the tragedy took place, but 500 years ahead of time! And yet, with breath-taking detail it describes the tragedy of the Jewish nation’s rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah, and the resulting dreadful consequences. And it teaches us one important lesson: The greatest possible tragedy is not Covid19 or whatever other great crises there might arise, but the rejection of Christ, the Good Shepherd. No tragedy is greater than that! That is one issue that should affect all Christians: There are so many people who renounce the Good Shepherd: how can I be of service for some to be saved?
It is true that the wicked world should be warned about the consequences of rejecting or ignoring Christ – the Good Shepherd. But it is also just as important that those who are members of the church and who attend services every Sunday, should also be warned about it. In the case of Zechariah it is indeed the covenant-people of God who are being warned.
It is possible to confess His Name, but in practice merely to pursue your own passions and deny Him.
That is why chapter 11 follows against the background of the previous two chapters where so many promises are given with reference to the Messiah, the Good Shepherd. Chapter 10 = Blessing and abundance where the Good Shepherd is followed. Chapter 11 = destruction/ruin where the Good Shepherd is denied.
The question is whether the Covenant-nation even understood what the consequences were to disdain those promises of chapter 10 and to live as if it did not exist.
Zechariah is therefore in the first place directing a warning at the church – but it is also a picture-image of the greatest tragedy in the history of mankind – God’s people who have rejected the Messiah and the consequences thereof. Zechariah 11 therefore foretells 5 centuries ahead of time that the Jews would reject their Messiah. That was of course fulfilled exactly like that – with dreadful consequences – specifically AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed and 500 Jews were crucified in one day.
We know though, that the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 was a direct consequence of the rejection of the Good Shepherd and of the choice to rather follow a false shepherd – the Roman Emperor. And someone like Josephus – a Jewish historian of that time – wrote that the events during the fall of Jerusalem was SO terrible that it was impossible to describe it. The Jewish nation was brought to a tragic fall.
The chapter falls apart into 3 clear sections:
VERSES 1-3 > a description of the destruction of the land when God’s judgment comes over it
VERSES 4-14 > a prophetic parable that Zechariah himself dramatize in which the nation’s rejection of the Good Shepherd is illustrated
VERSES 15-17 > foretell the coming of the foolish, worthless shepherd to whom people will subject themselves, but how he would take advantage of them until he himself succumbs under God’s judgment.
We now look at these 3 sections step-by-step:
1 > VERSES 1-3 > Something dreadful is prophesied in poetic language. God’s judgment will pass over the Jewish nation. Lebanon, Bashan and the Jordan are the geographic markers that enclose the whole country. A fire will consume the holy land – from the North to the Jordan valley to the southern border. The great cedars are falling, the cypresses are cut down, the great trees of Bashan, the forests of Bashan. The rich pastures of the shepherds are destroyed. The lush thickets where the lions keep are ruined.
That is poetic language to describe the disaster when God’s judgment comes over the Jewish nation.
It is interesting that these verses describe the RESULT of that which is written about in the rest of the chapter. We would have expected it to be the other way round. FIRST the problem and THEN the result. No, says the Holy Spirit through the pen of Zechariah – FIRST the result. To show what tragedy happens when the Lord’s nation rejects the Good Shepherd. It is like hell on earth.
It is very possible that these three verses are a prophetic announcement of what would took place in AD 70 when Jerusalem was to be destroyed by the Roman general Titus. Particularly when we realise that the next section is a prophetic foretelling of the Jews’ rejection of Jesus – the Good Shepherd. Because what DID historically follow on that? We know that from history. The fall of Jerusalem AD 70. God’s judgment literally ran like a fire through the nation.
2 > VERSES 4-14 > It is not so easy to understand this prophetic Word – especially the finer details – but the essence is nevertheless very clear.
First a nutshell-summary:
The shepherds of the covenant-nation were the kings, prophets and priests (Ezek 34 and Jer 23). It was God’s will that the shepherds should love God’s will and nourish and care for and lead the nation like a flock so that they could be made ready for the Supreme Shepherd, the Good Shepherd (John 10), the Messiah – Jesus Christ. False shepherds however wrecked the flock for the sake of gain for themselves. They did not do what shepherds should do: seek the lost, gather the children, care for the injured, feed the sheep etc. The result is that – when the Good Shepherd eventually appeared – they rejected Him and sold Him for the price of a slave – thirty pieces of silver – and chose a false shepherd namely the Roman Emperor. God would consequently withdraw His protection from them, and His covenant with the nation – whereby He would withhold the nations from destroying His flock – He would withdraw. The false shepherd would eventually destroy them the way it did not happen even during the Babylonian Exile. Rejection of the Good Shepherd would therefore not be a good idea.
This severe message is communicated to God’s people by Zechariah by way of a type of symbolic act (so ordered by God) where the prophet himself is the actor and then, by turn, acts the roles of the Good Shepherd and the false shepherd.
Firstly Zechariah portrayed the coming Messiah – the good Shepherd-King – in the midst of the false shepherds of that time who did not care for the flock and did not fear God and enriched themselves and then thanked the LORD for their riches! A flock marked for slaughter. Though a flock deserving to be protected by a shepherd! But no, the false shepherds did not care and they oppressed the sheep.
Zechariah (the Good Shepherd) has two staffs named FAVOUR and UNION. With His favour and grace He forms a union among the flock. He pastures the sheep, cares for them, teaches them, instructs them in the Word, protects them, provides for them. From the descriptions in Matthew/Mark/Luke/John we know how Jesus of Nazareth DID exactly that.
Within a short period of time he gets rid of three shepherds – kings, prophets and priests. We know how Jesus fulfilled that also – the offices of king, priest and prophet were fulfilled in Himself. He himself is king/ priest/ prophet.
But the nation turns their back on Him. They do not value Him and detests Him. That is why He breaks the two staffs. They lose the favour of God and their unity crumbles. And God revokes His protection so the nations could destroy Israel.
The flock does not show any remorse over the fact that they have rejected the Good Shepherd. Although they know what the truth is. That is why the Shepherd says: ”Give me my pay; but if not, keep it.”
He then receives His pay – that which they think He is worth: 30 pieces of silver. They call it a HANDSOME price (verse 13). According to Exodus 21:32 that was the value of a slave. A slave that was accidentally gored by a bull.
Then God tells Zechariah (in the role of the Good Shepherd) : “Throw it to the potter”. So Zechariah takes the 30 pieces of silver and throws it into the temple.
Five centuries later Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins. That is what the betrayal was worth to him (Matt 26:14).
Later Judas had remorse and brought the money back to the priests. But they said: “What is that to us?” So Judas threw the money into the temple, went away and hanged himself. The chief priest however, picked up the money and used it to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners (Matt 27:5,7).
We see therefore how the prophetic representation by Zechariah was literally fulfilled in Christ’s rejection and betrayal.
3 > VERSES 15-17 > Now Zechariah turns about and changes his role to THAT of the false shepherd. The false shepherd who does not care for God’s flock. Who does not search for the lost, heals not the injured, feeds not the sheep, but rather devours the meat of the choicest sheep, even tearing off their hoofs. Yes, this shepherd is deserting the flock. And he is cursed. The curse of God will strike him. The sword will strike him. His arm will wither completely.
That portrays the false shepherd whom the Jews would choose in the place of the Good Shepherd. The Messiah sent by God – they did not want, therefore they would be given someone who would oppress them. Because – remember – God had long before broken the two staffs called FAVOUR and UNION.
From John 19:15 we know WHO it is that the Jews chose in the place of Jesus. They said: “We have no king – but Caesar!” Caesar they wanted and Caesar they received! They were guilty of shedding the blood of the Good Shepherd and the false shepherd would turn their country into a blood bath.
General Titus, the son of Emperor Vespasian, destroyed Jerusalem in the middle of the seven year Jewish War – AD 66 -73 – with the fall of Masada. Right in the middle of the seven year war the Romans laid siege on Jerusalem for 5 months. It was the exact fulfilment of the prophetic word in Daniel 9:26-27.
General Titus made an agreement with the Jews that – if they do not resist, he would not destroy the city of Jerusalem. But the Jews were extremely rebellious and rejected Titus’ agreement. As a result the Romans occupied the temple in AD 70, and erected a bust of Titus in the eastern corner at the East gate of the Temple and worshipped it. That way they defiled the temple and mocked the Lord. They killed great numbers of Jews inside the temple area and eventually completely destroyed the temple. More than 500 Jews were crucified in one day – so much so that there was not enough room for all the crosses – that according to the Jewish historian Josephus. In this way the OT-sacrifice and offering system were finally brought to an end – up until today. An exact fulfilment of Daniel 9:26-27.
Josephus tells us that severe rainstorms broke out during the destruction of the temple. The drains in Jerusalem were stopped up with all the garbage and bodies of the Jews and the water literally flooded through the city. An exact fulfilment of Dan 9:26 that had prophesied that the destruction of the temple would be accompanied by a flood!
These events are again a fulfilment of the first three verses of Zechariah 11 that we brought up for discussion at the start of this sermon – the false shepherd that would destroy the country.
And we know from the prophetic Words of Jesus in Matt 24 how the events in AD 70 will have a further fulfilment at the second coming of Christ when Antichrist shall be the final false shepherd. And 2 Thess 2 makes it very clear that the Lord Jesus – at His glorious return – will overthrow the Antichrist with the breath of His mouth. The eventual fulfilment therefore of Zechariah 11:17 that foretold misery for the false shepherd.
Do you understand why the Apostle Peter says that the prophetic word of God is like a bright light shining in the dark that gives us indescribable hope and expectation (2 Pet 1:19)? And that prophetic Word is NOT brought forth by the human mind, but the prophets were urged by the Holy Spirit (v 21). There is an almighty hand that drives the divine prophetic programme without a stutter and that will continue to do so until the last day when Antichrist is destroyed. And whoever were children of Christ by trusting upom His innocent death (of Dan 9:26), will be in the winning team – without a doubt.
Three closing conclusions:
1 > When one sees from the Scriptures and history how masterfully perfect and exact the prophetic Word of God is and how He fulfils and controls everything, you cannot do anything else, you MUST bow down to God. You must acknowledge that He truly lives. That He is Truth. That He is sovereign. That He reigns. That Christ is the Good Shepherd. That everything is true. In other words: the discovery of the perfection of the prophetic Scriptures must bring us to a discovery of how REAL He is and bring us to a complete and total devotion to Him. There is no alternative. It is EITHER irrevocably following the Good Shepherd OR go to meet eternal death. That is why all people follow a shepherd. If it is not Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd, it is some or other idol or human invention. There is nothing neutral. The Good Shepherd leads to life and blessing and the false shepherd leads to death and destruction.
2 > The greatest tragedy in history is Israel’s rejection of the Messiah – the Good Shepherd. And yet it is a tragedy that daily takes place everywhere in the world. It is what people find difficult to realise, namely that in all people’s lives where the Good Shepherd is not truly FOLLOWED, the tragedy repeats itself over and over. The destruction of the land in verses 1-3 is in essence the condition that will be prevalent in hell for eternity. The curse that God pronounces in verse 17 over the false shepherd, is in essence the eternal curse under which every person who lives in a disparity with God, will be. The disaster is that humanity is unaware of this.
Contrary to that is the care by the Good Shepherd that is described in Zechariah 11, the blessing that is now and for ever the share of every person who loves the Good Shepherd and obediently follows Him. The care of a Shepherd. That is the heavenly blessedness – in essence.
3 > Zechariah 11 also has something to say about our being the church today. In the New Testament church the elders are the designated shepherds of the flock. Yes, the clergy also, because they are the teaching elders. And the essential of an elder’s equipment is care. It is a false shepherd who asserts that truth is relative or that condones sin and leads the flock astray which ends in an abyss. The true shepherd feeds the flock with the truth of God’s Word. The false shepherd enriches himself and is centred upon himself ABOVE the church of Christ. The caring heart of the true shepherd goes out to look for those who have strayed and those who are lost, encourages and reprimands and disciplines.
All that is written in Zechariah 11.
How should a congregation not pray for and support their shepherds. In Zechariah 11 the Holy Spirit once again brings to our attention the fact that shepherding is very important in God’s eyes. Therefore the clergy, elders and congregation should be eager to listen and obey.
Translated by Marthie Wilson