Zechariah 11 – preached on 25 Mar 2012
In John 5:46, Jesus said “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.”
Now, if you read the books that Moses wrote (Gen, Ex, Lev, Num & Deut), you will not find the name of Jesus at all.
So Jesus was obviously referring to how He was represented in types and symbols in what Moses wrote.
All scriptures point to Jesus.
Hence, when we read the words of the Prophets, we must remember that they are writing about Jesus.
If we are not able to see how the Prophets were referring to Jesus, we have probably missed something.
Now Zechariah 11 is not an easy chapter to understand.
For a while, I struggled over how I should organise this sermon.
And I decided that it would be best to go verse by verse.
So please listen carefully or you will not be able to follow.
This chapter is about how God would sever His relationship with the Jewish nation.
God had granted them favour for a long time.
He even sent Prophets to instruct them concerning Jesus.
But when Jesus came to earth, the Jewish people did not recognise Him.
Instead, they crucified Him.
Only a small remnant believed in Him.
And to these, He gave the authority to become children of God – John 1:12.
This morning, as I preach Jesus to you, would you reject Jesus just like the Jewish nation did?
Or would you be one of those who would be the true sheep and children of God?
This is something that I ask all of us to carefully consider this morning.
Here in chapter 11, Zechariah tells us about 3 events that would happen:
In verses 1-3, he tells us about the things that would happen before Jesus would be born on earth.
In verses 4-14, he tells us in exact detail about how Jesus would be rejected by the Jewish nation.
In verses 15-17, he tells us about the things that would follow the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish nation.
Let’s now look at verses 1-3: the things that would happen before Jesus was born on earth.
The picture depicted for us is one of a violent storm.
We read of terror, ruin and devastation in Lebanon – verse 1.
Beautiful cypress & oak trees in Bashan are destroyed – verse 2.
Shepherds who normally tend their flock in peace will be wailing.
And the pride of the Jordan will be in ruins – you see these in verse 3.
It is a picture of chaos.
The general geography of where this chaos will take place is in the land of the Jewish nation Israel.
Jordan, Lenanon, Bashan – these are landmarks representing areas around and in that land.
Indeed in about 100 years from Zechariah’s prophesy, the Greeks swept across the entire region.
Alexander the Great conquered almost 2/3 of the ancient world at that time.
After his sudden death, the Greeks continued to rule the region.
And they imposed their pagan practices on the people.
In response to that, a Jewish revolt surfaced in around 167BC.
This was led by a Jew by the name of Judas Maccabeus.
He recaptured the temple, purified the practices and rededicated it.
This Maccabean revolt resulted in the feast of Hanukkah which is still observed by some Jews today.
This was also the time when the sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees gained importance in Judea.
But just as they thought there was peace, the Romans swept across the entire region.
Herod was a Roman King who captured Jerusalem in 37BC.
There was great disunity amongst the Jews at that time.
Some became loyal to the Romans.
One of the things they did which angered their fellow Jews was the act of collecting taxes on behalf of the Romans.
There were also others who were determined to re-establish their Jewish state.
And they were hoping that their Messiah would come as a military king to deliver them from all these chaos.
It was in such a setting that Herod felt very insecure when he heard that the “King of the Jews” would be born in Judah.
You will read this in Matthew 2.
And these were the things that Zechariah told us would happen before Jesus was born on earth.
Now, as we move to the 2nd part of our meditation today, I will cover verse 4-14 verse by verse.
And we will see how Jesus would be rejected by the Jewish nation.
And we will see how God is angry with this rejection and severs His relationship with them altogether.
4 Thus says the Lord my God, “Feed the flock for slaughter, 5 whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt; those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich’; and their shepherds do not pity them.
The Jewish people were here seen as a flock.
In this case, this flock was being fed to be slaughtered.
God had been patient with the nation of Israel.
But this time, He is severing His relationship with them and will no longer be their owner.
Their “new” ‘owners will slaughter them and will not feel guilty doing it’ – v5.
Who are these “new owners” of the Jewish people? Look at verse 6.
6 For I will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land,” says the Lord. “But indeed I will give everyone into his neighbour’s hand and into the hand of his king. They shall attack the land, and I will not deliver them from their hand.”
The “new owners” are the ones whom the people call their king.
Now, remember the incident in John 19:15 when Pilate brought Jesus before the people?
And Pilate said (pointing to Jesus) “Behold your king”!
But the people responded and said “We have no king but Caesar”!
So the people regarded the Roman king Caesar as their king!
This is the “new owner” of the Jewish people who will be slaughtering them and yet feel no guilt doing it.
In 70AD, the Romans swept into Jerusalem and ruthlessly killed more than 1.5M Jews.
Just as God said in verse 6 “..they shall attack the land, and I will not deliver them from their hand.”
I will read verse 7 in ESV because it brings out the full essence of the meaning from the original Hebrew:
7 So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named favour, the other I named union. And I tended the sheep.
Those who are using the KJV, please note that this verse is not to be understood in the way it sounds to you in KJV.
Because the English we use today is 20th century English.
Not even the British today speak like those in the King James era.
So never have the perception that the KJV is more accurate than any other translated version.
Instead, in such circumstances we ought to refer back to the original Hebrew Bible to understand the meaning.
Verse 7 clearly distinguishes between the flock and the sheep.
Jesus will take care of the sheep – the remnant, the elect of God.
But it is the flock that is “doomed to be slaughtered” by the “new owners”.
In those days, Shepherds normally carry 2 staffs: a club & a crook.
The club would be used to drive away wild animals.
The crook would be used to rescue wandering sheep.
As Shepherd of the flock, God gave the Jewish nation 2 things:
1) favour – which the KJV & NKJV translates as beauty and
2) unity/union – which the NKJV&KJV translates as Bonds / Bands
But this “favour” of God for the Jews will soon be withdrawn.
It is a result and judgement upon them for rejecting Jesus.
And soon, even their unity will be a thing of the past because the Jewish people will be scattered all over the world.
And only the remnant will be preserved.
8 I dismissed the three shepherds in one month. My soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me.
There were 3 anointed offices in the old testament: prophet, priest & king.
Every shepherd or ruler in Israel was either a prophet, a priest or a king.
When Jesus came, He was the manifestation of the Father.
There was therefore no more need of prophets because “…God has spoken to us by His Son” – Heb 1:2.
There were some temporary Prophets in the new testament.
But they were not meant to be permanent.
Jesus was the high priest who offered Himself as the perfect offering.
There was therefore no further need of a High Priest.
There was also no more need of the sacrificial system in the temple.
And every individual believer can now approach God himself through Jesus Christ.
This is what we call the “individual priesthood” of the believer.
Jesus was the true king of heaven and earth.
Christians are to submit to Him in His Kingdom.
So there was a time where there were 3 anointed offices or 3 shepherds as the verse puts it.
Then there would be a transition to Jesus who was our Prophet, Priest and King at the same time.
And in that way, the 3 shepherds were dismissed – which is what verse 8 means.
Any attempt to re-enact the sacrificial system is an abomination to the Lord.
9 Then I said, “I will not feed you. Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish. Let those that are left eat each other’s flesh.”
10 And I took my staff, Beauty (or favour), and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the people.
11 So it was broken on that day. Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord.
Something dramatic happened in the year 70AD.
It represented the end of the Jewish age.
Jerusalem was destroyed and the temple of God was totally burnt.
Titus, the Roman king was sent to attack Jerusalem.
There were many Jewish Christians in Jerusalem at that time.
These were the sheep, the remnant, or ‘the poor of the flock’ as the NKJV translation puts it in verse 11.
These Jewish Christians saw the invading armies of Rome.
But for some strange reason, the Roman armies waited for about 1.5 days.
And these Christians remembered the words of the prophets.
They also remembered the words of Jesus in Matt 24: 15-28.
“Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
“Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of the house”….
And not one Christian died because they obeyed the Lord and fled to the mountains.
And right after that short window provided for escape, the Romans rampaged the entire Jerusalem.
They killed a million and a half unbelieving Jews.
And they burnt the temple.
“And the poor of the flock (ie. the remnant), who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD.” – verse 11
Those of you who are interested in this history can read the account of Josephus Flavius.
This is one of the best account of what happened and is freely available on the Internet.
There is also a short summary by RC Sproul in the website Ligonier Ministries concerning the end of the Jewish age.
I hope those of you who spend a lot of time on facebook will spend some of your online time reading this instead.
12 – Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
If you are laid off by your employer, there would be a severance pay.
The company is severing its employer-employee relationship with you.
And in this case, God was severing His relationship with the Jewish nation.
And He asked them how much they would value that severance.
And if they did not value it, just let it be – which is the meaning of the phrase “if it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; if not, refrain”.
And it turned out that the Jews valued that severance to be worth “30 pieces of silver.”
Now in the Jewish system, if a slave was eaten or gored by an ox, the owner of the ox had to pay compensation.
And the amount to be paid would be 30 pieces of silver.
So that was the amount that the Jews valued their relationship with Jesus.
Do you sense mockery and sarcasm?
I say this reverently – You have everything to fear if God turns “sarcastic” towards you.
13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter.
Do you remember how much the Jews paid Judas when they wanted information about Jesus?
In Matthew 26:15 we were told, it was 30 pieces of silvers.
When Judas was remorseful over what he had done, where did he put the money?
Matthew 27:5 tells us that it was “In the house of the Lord”.
But the Jewish authorities could not accept blood money, so what did they do?
They bought a field where foreigners were buried.
It was called “the potter’s field” – Matthew 27:7
Is it a co-incidence that Zechariah wrote these things concerning Jesus more than 400 years before they took place?
How did he it know it in such great detail?
Unless He was inspired the Holy Spirit as we were told in 1 Pet 1:21.
“prophesy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit”.
Friends, this book is the word of God.
You have the privilege of getting it in your hands and in a language you understand.
Don’t be like the Jews to reject God because the severance will be tragic.
Value this book; study it day and night and see the wondrous things that God has to say to you.
It is worth more than any novel you can ever read.
14 Then I cut in two my other staff, Bonds, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
Now, that was the ultimate of the severance of relationship between God and the Jewish nation.
The event of AD70 dispersed the Jews all over the world.
And what follows the rejection of Jesus by the Jews is the final part of our meditation today.
15 And the Lord said to me, “Next, take for yourself the implements of a foolish shepherd.
What follows after AD70 was the consequences of the rejection of Jesus.
The Romans who ruled the land were cruel – foolish shepherds.
They did not care for the people.
And verses 16 & 17 tell us that even their foolishness resulted in the judgement of God upon them.
Soon they too lost control and power.
Now what is the most important and key lesson for us in Zechariah 11?
1) The Bible is God’s word.
I hope more people in our midst will study and know the bible in greater depth.
It is not enough to depend on the elders and deacons to defend and teach the truth.
For one, if you aspire to be a Christian leader, zeal alone will not sustain you.
It has to be the truth of God founded on solid doctrines.
I hope more men in our midst will rise to this call to study the word of God deeper.
Secondly, for a season, God may bear with our wickedness of rejecting Jesus.
Sometimes He chastises us so that we can get back to Him.
Sometimes, it appears as if crooks seem to get away with their crimes without judgement.
Sometimes the innocent seems to suffer as a result of man’s sin.
Is God watching? Does He care?
Of course He does.
The Psalmist tell us in Ps 53:2 that “God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.”
And he continues in verse 3:
“Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.”
Well these are just instances when man rejects Christ, yet God is tolerant.
But what if Christ rejects man?
What if Christ says He has enough of you because you won’t listen to His warning?
Friends, it is fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Just like what happened to the Jews.
Don’t let it come to that stage.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
Because the gospel is message of reconciliation.
The fact that you are alive today and hearing this message shows there is an opportunity for repentance and salvation.
Do not resist the Holy Spirit when He prompts to make that profession of faith.
Don’t let that profession stay in your heart.
Be publicly named amongst His people.
Profess your allegiance to Jesus Christ.
Do not delay any longer.
Turn to Him today.
Now I realise that today’s message may not be easy to understand.
Please talk to me if there is anything that you need to clarify.
May God glorify Himself in the conversion of souls today.