Chapter 11 concludes the first of two oracles in Second Zechariah. The prophet continued with his Messianic theme, describing the Savior to come as a shepherd. The Shepherd had two staffs, one named “Favor” and the other “Union.” In the previous post, the staff of Favor is broken, and now in this post the staff of Union will be broken.
Removal of God’s Spirit of Unity
Then I broke my second staff Unity, annulling the family ties between Judah and Israel.Zechariah 11:14 (NRSV)
Zechariah continued to prophecy about a time centuries future to him, that would be fulfilled in 70 AD. When the second staff of unity was broken, the Lord took away God’s Spirit of peace between brothers and sisters, and all those submerged hostilities erupted, creating the warring factions that quickened the downfall of Jerusalem.
However, God’s Spirit remained within and upon the believers, and it was to this unity that Jesus prayed, and the apostles often appealed.
The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.Jesus, John 17:22-23 (NRSV)
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
. . . until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.Apostle Paul, Ephesians 4:1-3, 13 (NRSV)
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 3:8 (NRSV)
Jesus the Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
(The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.)
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.
And I lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.John 10:11-17 (NRSV)
In contrast to the Good Shepherd, God now instructed Zechariah to portray the wicked shepherd.
Then the Lord said to me: Take once more the implements of a worthless shepherd. For I am now raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for the perishing, or seek the wandering, or heal the maimed, or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.Zechariah 11:15-16 (NRSV)
Zechariah would model the exact opposite of the kind of shepherd Jesus had been in His earthly ministry. As Jesus would say, four centuries later,
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.John 10:10 (NRSV)
The Tipping Point
Surely not realizing the terrible and prophetic implications of their words, the temple elite goaded the people gathered in the Praetorium to cry out,
“His blood be on us and on our children!”Matthew 27:25 (NRSV)
As Jesus carried His cross, knowing what they had said, He turned and cried out to the people,
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’”Luke 23:28-30 (NRSV)
The high priests and members of the Sanhedrin had heatedly insisted to Pilate,
“Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!”
Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.”John 19:15 (NRSV)
Now, God would allow them to have their wicked shepherd, who would tear them to pieces.
Perhaps Jesus had Zechariah’s prophetic vision in mind when He wept for Jerusalem.
As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”Luke 19:40-42 (NRSV)
The Shadow and the Complete
Even though we can rejoice with modern-day Israelis and those of Jewish descent in the restoration of Israel, they are beset on every side.
There have been wrenching tragedies wrought on the descendants of Israel in the centuries since the ferocious destruction of Jerusalem. The cruelty of Medieval Europe’s distrust and abuse of Jewish people, pogroms exacted in eastern Europe, the monstrosity of Hitler’s regime, and to this day those of Jewish descent have had to deal with prejudices and racism leveled against them.
But there are many scholars who see the real fulfillment of this prophecy as coming in the time of the antichrist, the “man of lawlessness,” a political figure who (these scholars say) will be keenly intelligent, profoundly powerful, and demanding the worship of his subjects. Such scholars compare the description Zechariah gave, speaking the word of the Lord, and prophecies given by the Apostle Paul and the Apostle John.
|“Worthless Servant”||Zechariah 11:15-17||2 Thessalonians 2:1-17||Revelation 13:4-18|
|Power||“He will be the shepherd of the whole land”||He sets himself up as a god over everything. He uses counterfeit miracles.||People will worship him. He will have “been given” authority. He will have power to make war against the saints.|
|Cruelty||Rather than care for the sheep, he will tear them to pieces and eat them.||People will be deceived and perish.||He will blaspheme and slander God. He will deceive earth’s inhabitants. Everyone will be forced to receive his mark.|
|Destruction||A sword will strike him, and his right arm and eye will wither.||He is doomed to destruction. Jesus will overthrow and destroy him.||Jesus’ victory is assured in Revelation 22.|
Oh, my worthless shepherd,Zechariah 11:17 (NRSV)
who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm
and his right eye!
Let his arm be completely withered,
his right eye utterly blinded!
Theologians who read Zechariah’s prophecy, and others similar to it, as still future to us, see God bringing final judgement on this “man of lawlessness,” judged in the very areas in which he will take most pride, his superhuman strength and his superhuman power. His power will be paralyzed and his mental powers nullified.
What strikes me about this comparison, between Messiah the Good Shepherd, and the worthless shepherd (whoever he was or will be) is not so much about them, but about who you and I are to them. Sheep, in ancient times, were much loved. Not only did they provide meat, wool, and milk, they were held in affection for their own docile and willing natures. Sheep are amiable, they return affection. Like dogs, they typically aim to please, and want to follow a leader.
If that is, at least in a general way, who we are, then wisdom says you and I need to be very careful about who we decide to follow.
Because whoever it is will be trusted and followed to the end.