Summary: The very people who are called to protect and feed the sheep have instead used their positions of authority to fleece the flock, exploiting them in order to make themselves rich and comfortable.
Dakota Community Church
November 23, 2014
Sheep Without Shepherds
The metaphorical connection between shepherds and kings was a common one in the Old Testament.
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: … who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.
5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. 5 And he shall be their peace.
Those who buy them slaughter them and go unpunished, and those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, I have become rich,’ and their own shepherds have no pity on them.
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. 8 In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me. 9 So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.” 10 And I took my staff Favour, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples. 11 So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. 12 Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. 13 Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.
The flock is doomed, destined for destruction and powerless to help themselves against their selfish shepherds.
The good shepherd, in this case Zechariah, is rejected and detested by the sheep (who prefer their abusing masters) and dismissed for thirty pieces of silver. Sound familiar?
1. Call of the shepherd/kings
The call of the shepherd is to care for and nurture the sheep.
They are to lead them to safety and provision, feeding and protecting the sheep at whatever cost.
The shepherd/king connection would have been an important reminder to hereditary monarchs most of whom would have had a much easier time considering themselves recipients of divine privilege and power than the bearers of any kind of pastoral responsibility. Put yourself in that position for a moment, how are you likely to respond?
David is an exception on this front. He recognizes God as the chief shepherd and his role as servant below Him, even though he is the earthly king.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.