Summary: Israel rejects the only good Shepherd and replaces him with others who aren't true shepherds. They suffer the consequences of rejecting their Messiah.
We’ve come to the concluding part of FIRST oracle, started in Zech 9 and ending Zech 11.
• God executes His judgement upon the nations surrounding Israel. A picture of God as the divine warrior watching over Israel. He said He will defend His house (9:8)
• In the second part we read of the Messiah returning as the Deliverer, re-gathering His people and establishing His Kingdom and rule from Jerusalem.
It’s the prophecy of the end time when God’s people returns to God’s land under God’s rule.
• Last week we read of the good and faithful Shepherd caring for His flock.
He is their blessing and anchor in life, pictured as the cornerstone, the tent peg, the battle bow, and the ruler (10:4).
• By God’s grace and because of His compassion, Israel will be restored and reunited in the end time, back to this God-given land, with their sins forgiven and forgotten – “as though I had not rejected them,” the Lord says (10:6).
But this beautiful outcome will be delayed because Israel will not recognise their “good and faithful Shepherd” when He comes.
• And that’s what we are going to look at today in Zech 11. Chapter 11 begins with a lamentation. Read Zech 11:1-3.
This is a poetic description of the devastation of the land.
• This happens as a result of Israel’s rejection of their true Shepherd, from the context of chapter 11. Hence we have the calls to wail over the impending desolation.
• The references to the cedars of Lebanon, the oaks of Bashan, the lush thicket of Jordan suggest that the destruction will be widespread, from Lebanon (N), Bashan (Central) and Jordan (S).
• All the rich forests are destroyed, leaving shepherds wailing for the loss of pastures and lions roaring for the loss of their habitat.
Historically, most believe this was caused by the Romans who came against this land.
• But we know the true reason, according to this text: Israel rejected their Shepherd and turned to other shepherds.
• Read Zech 11:4-17. This is what the Lord says.
We see three broad themes:
• 11:4-6 The Lord says His flock will be attacked and the true Shepherd will not intervene. They have their own shepherds.
• 11:7-14 Zechariah acts out the prophecy of judgment. The two staffs in his hands which he called “favour” and “union” are broken.
• 11:15-17 A foolish and worthless shepherd will come pretending to be the Shepherd and will deceive them.
We see this imagery through the text, of the shepherd and his flock, which begins in chapter 10.
• Israel has one true Shepherd (pictured for us in Zech 10) but they rejected Him.
• Not only did they reject the good and faithful Shepherd; they would replace Him with other shepherds.
• Ultimately in the end days, they would turn to this “substitute” thinking that he is the good shepherd.
In the 1st part, the Lord declared His judgement. Israel is doomed for slaughter, under the Romans (according to history), because they have rejected Christ.
In the 2nd part Zechariah acts out the prophecy by portraying the work of a shepherd.
• Zechariah took TWO staffs, just like any shepherd would do – taking the rod and the staff like what we read about in Psalm 23.
• He gave them symbolic names FAVOUR and UNION.
- FAVOUR depicting the God’s gracious favours toward His people
- UNION referring to coming together of divided nation - Israel and Judah - as one.
But they were broken. The FAVOUR was broken, revoking the covenant God made.
• His hand of protection was lifted and His people would suffer.
• Just as Zechariah expressed in 11:8b-9 “The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them 9and said, "I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another's flesh."
• Probably referring to the Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD70 when the people were forced to eat one another’s flesh.
Before that he said in 11:8 “In one month I got rid of the three shepherds.”
• He was acting prophetically. It’s hard to identify who these were.
• Some commentaries say there are over 40 interpretations for this.
• In 10:3 the Lord says, “My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders…” If we take these shepherds as leaders, then they could refer to the prophets, priests and kings.
• These offices were taken away from Israel after the Roman conquest of Judea and have never been restored. They are now fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Interestingly, as Zechariah acts out this prophecy, he paused and asked for his pay for being the shepherd of this flock.