Today’s reading in Zechariah 10-12 has some difficult sections that well respected commentators have a hard time agreeing about, but I think that it is helpful to remember that one of Zechariah’s primary missions (what he is noted for in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14) was to encourage and motivate the returned exiles and their leaders to finish the work of the Temple. This would be a multi-pronged effort to: 1) strengthen their faith that building the Temple in violation of the king’s order would not result in their deaths; 2) strengthen their faith that they would have resources enough to complete the work; 3) reassure them that their political enemies (Samaritans), who opposed their work, wouldn’t succeed; 4) rekindle their zeal and willingness to work in the effort; and 5) warn them about lapses into paganism’s snares. With this mission in mind, let’s plunge into the text for a few principles and interesting passages.
Their enemies would be punished
Although it might be a little confusing at first, it’s important to remember that the symbol of a shepherd refers not just to Jewish leaders, but any king who had reign over God’s people. In this case, it would not only be the Persian king, but the more local governors and officials, who were not only trying to compromise the Jews religiously, but also throwing out every obstacle they could muster (political, economic harassment, and even violence) to block the completion of the Temple. Such “shepherds” had no concern for the flock of God (as chapter 11 makes clarifies even further). But God, the Good Shepherd, would protect those who had returned and punish the oppressive authorities.
There’s encouragement for us, too. God’s eye is on His people, those trying to do His will. He knows only too well how Satan and his servants try to waylay the good deeds, projects, and intentions of Christians. The tools are often the same: religious compromise and secular oppressors. But God will bring them to justice now or later. Our job is merely to do our spiritual job in faith, zeal, and perseverance.
A doomed flock?
There are a number of thoughts out there about what the prophecy of the doomed flock might be. There are those who will propose that it references the Jews who chose to stay in the diaspora rather than return to Judea — and that God’s favor was going to be withdrawn and their union with the returnees would be broken. Others propose that the doomed flock has much more to do with the death of the Messiah, especially since this passage includes…
“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. 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. Then I cut in pieces my second staff Union, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.” Zechariah 11:12-14
a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and the return of the money to the high priests upon Judas’ regret of his betrayal of the Master. And that therefore, because of the death of the Messiah, God’s favor would be withdrawn and Israel’s union be broken. Either way, it is a prophecy of doom for the disobedient, and even an expression of final impatience with a perpetually resistant nation.
The lesson for us? Don’t become a perpetually resistant people. Israel always thought that God’s way wasn’t right, that the nations’ ways were right, and that obedience to the LORD’s way optional at best but more often just scorned. Isn’t that they tale of so much of modern day Christendom? “We just feel that God would approve our wonderful new way of doing things. It’s so beautiful and meaningful. After all, it fits so much better with today’s sensitivities and inclinations — after all, we don’t want to be out of step with the modern world with such ancient laws and ways of doing things. We certainly don’t want people to take a look at us and say, ‘They just don’t get it!'” Ezekiel’s prophecy (18:25) said it well, “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Hear now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right?”
They will look on Me whom they have pierced
Lastly, we can look at one more clear prophecy of the Messiah, Zechariah 12:10, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.” God’s word always comes to pass, always.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.