Book of Zechariah Chapter 11 Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Judgment And Redemption
We've seen in the Book of Zechariah that God remembers His people always, in good times and in bad. Suffering may last a long time from a human perspective, but from His, we are redeemed at just the right moment. Always remember when you suffer, He is not subject to time like we are. It was just an instant ago when Creation occurred, and in another instant, we'll all be in eternity. He longs to restore us because He loves us, but He waits because suffering brings us to faith. And He is holy. He will not endure sin of any kind, and that is why it was judged on the cross. This chapter is about suffering, judgment and redemption, resulting in our salvation.
The Bible is full of parables designed to help us understand. That's the case in Verses 1-2..."Open your doors, O Lebanon, that a fire may feed on your cedars. Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, because the glorious trees have been destroyed; wail, O oaks of Bashan, for the impenetrable forest has come down." The "trees" in those verses are people. You can see it in Psalm 92:12-14—"The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing"...very similar to our verses and definitely about people described as "trees." The Hebrews are addressed as "Lebanon," a place famous for its trees, used to describe the leaders of Judah, from the least to the great. The various kinds of trees are different characteristics of people. The best, tallest and most beautiful trees have no cause to boast, because all of them, from the tallest redwood to the tiniest thistle are God's creation—for His purposes, not for our own. The nation was "destroyed," described as: the whole "forest has come down." Death is the great equalizer for us all.
The "shepherds" in Verse 3 are leaders of nations, such as presidents and kings. The "flock" in Verse 4 are their subjects...those who are not in charge. "There is a sound of the shepherds’ wail, for their glory is ruined; there is a sound of the young lions’ roar, for the pride of the Jordan is ruined. Thus says the Lord my God, 'Pasture the flock doomed to slaughter'" (Verses 3-4). They are also described as "young lions," ambitious, hungry beings who view the people as prey to be eaten. They only desire power, caring nothing for their subjects. The "roar" of these "young lions" is like the "shepherds' wail" in relation to the conquest of Jerusalem. They had felt secure behind the walls of that city, but when the conquering enemy came, they lost—everything.
We're getting a look in these verses as to the reasons behind the conquest and captivity of the nation called Judah. Their leaders had become utterly corrupt, and as models for the nation, this disease of the soul spread to the people. An indictment of those leaders is seen in Verse 5: "Those who buy them slay them and go unpunished, and each of those who sell them says, ‘Blessed be the Lord, for I have become rich!’ And their own shepherds have no pity on them." Are you some kind of leader? You are to serve and protect your people...not lord it over them.
The context of 2 Thessalonians 2:7, speaks of a time when "He who now restrains...will be taken out of the way." That's what happened when the Assyrians conquered Israel, and it happened to Judah when Babylon swarmed over them. People and nations become so bad that the Holy Spirit of God, sickened by our endless sin, simply removes His protective hand...and we fall. Verse 6 observes the process seen by Judah—"'For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of the land,' declares the Lord; 'but behold, I will cause the men to fall, each into another’s power and into the power of his king; and they will strike the land, and I will not deliver them from their power.'"
God went with His people into captivity, shepherding them. They wept and He tended them, as seen in Verse 7—"So I pastured the flock doomed to slaughter, hence the afflicted of the flock. And I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Favor and the other I called Union; so I pastured the flock." The reason the Jews were not destroyed at that time was because God, their Protector, accompanied them—He "pastured the flock doomed to slaughter." And He took two symbolic shepherd's staffs with Him. The King James calls the staffs "Beauty" and "Bands," but the better translation is "Favor" (or "Grace") and "Union" as in the New American Standard. They felt abandoned, but He was there and He "pastured the flock." They had the "favor" of God while in captivity, and one of His intentions for them was "union"—Israel and Judah were to be united once more. They would lose their national identity for centuries in the future, but known only to God, they were once again to be one people. And note that it is God's intention for us to know "union" right now—"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).
Verse 8—"Then I annihilated the three shepherds in one month, for my soul was impatient with them, and their soul also was weary of me." These "shepherds" were the secular and religious leaders of Judah. They didn't care about the people anyway, as we saw in Verse 5, and so God ended their time on earth. He was sick of them and they gave ample evidence that they were tired of Him. As it has been true of so many, they gradually moved away from God, preferring to lead themselves, and so God let them do it. Soon they went into captivity, accompanied by God's sad words in Verses 9-11—"I said, 'I will not pasture you. What is to die, let it die, and what is to be annihilated, let it be annihilated; and let those who are left eat one another’s flesh.' I took my staff Favor and cut it in pieces, to break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples. So it was broken on that day, and thus the afflicted of the flock who were watching me realized that it was the word of the Lord." You need to embrace, follow, trust and love the Lord while you can. Our time on earth is an opportunity to have faith in Him, and He has provided the Way. Jesus revealed, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
One of Jesus' disciples, an apostle actually, betrayed Him for money, as seen in Verses 12-13 of this chapter—"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." The disciple, Judas, "went to the chief priests and said, 'What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?' And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver" (Matthew 26:14-15). Later, Judas "was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver..." The priests wouldn't accept it, so Judas "threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself" (Matthew 27:3-5). This sad prophesy in Zechariah was literally fulfilled in the person of Judas Iscariot.
God, through the prophet, reaches into the past in Verse 14, and gives a behind-the-scenes look at 1 Kings 12, a chapter in which we see the separation of the nation Israel into two parts—Judah in the south and Israel to the north. God Himself allowed and caused that separation. The people in the north were especially falling into idolatry and He would isolate them before they did further harm. As it is stated in Zechariah 11:14, "Then I cut in pieces my second staff Union, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel."
Verse 15—"The Lord said to me, 'Take again for yourself the equipment of a foolish shepherd," and as he had likely done in Verse 4, Zechariah dressed up like a shepherd, "a foolish shepherd," illustrating this parable of the Lord. Continuing in Verses 16-17, "For behold, I am going to raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for the perishing, seek the scattered, heal the broken, or sustain the one standing, but will devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off their hoofs. Woe to the worthless shepherd who leaves the flock! A sword will be on his arm and on his right eye! His arm will be totally withered and his right eye will be blind.” John the Apostle later observed, "...you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come..." (1 John 2:18). There have been many religious leaders "who will not care for the perishing, seek the scattered (or) heal the broken." Don't be a "foolish shepherd"...and the test for who you are is this: Do you love the people you serve?
Lord, I see that if You call me into leadership, I'm to care for those I serve. Please give me a heart that longs to serve, longs to love, and help me be useful in Your service, all the days of my life. In Jesus Name. Amen.