THE TRUE SHEPHERD: King Of Israel Part Six
There were two important figures that stood out in the minds of Old Testament Jewry. The first was that of a shepherd. It was a common sight to see them leading their sheep to pasture. They provided protection. They watched over their flocks. David, their great king, had been one in his early days. Yet he said, “The Lord is my shepherd ….”
The other figure was that of a king. For many years Israel did not have one, but they kept crying out to God, “Give us a king.. .” (1 Sam. 8:6). Finally, the Lord gave them one only because they begged so long and hard.
In the chapters before us, Zechariah 9-11, the entire theme involves kings and shepherds. They are chapters of contrast. The prophet compares a king who will soon walk across the pages of history for a few fleeting years with God’s eternal King who will finally rule over the earth. Zechariah also makes the comparison of many shepherds with the one true Shepherd of the sheep. At the end of this segment we will leave Israel blindly following after a false shepherd. However, in chapters 12-14, there will be a tremendous, climactic, divine solution to this problem.
The Coming of a Conquering King
To begin with, the Lord gives a prophetic picture of a conqueror who will shortly come. Though no name is given, this one is obviously Alexander the Great. After the battle of Issus in 333 B.C., he moved into Hadrach and Damascus (9:1). These are some of the cities of the Medo-Persian kingdom which he conquered. He moved on down the coast and took Tyre (9:2), a feat which had never before been accomplished. Though tried by Shalmanezer who besieged it five years and by Nebuchadnezzar for thirteen years, Alexander took it in seven months. It was a city one-half mile at sea, with the best fortifications ever developed. Now, it was the Lord’s time for it to fall (9:4).
The Lord would use Alexander to carry out His purposes. To the Jew, seeing this fulfilled a few hundred years after the prophet wrote, this was a milestone on the road to the day when God would provide total victory through the Messiah. If God could make a heathen king victorious over a heathen city, He certainly could provide ultimate worldwide victory through His Messiah-King, Jesus.
Just as history proved, Alexander would continue moving on to conquer the Philistine cities of Ashkelon, Gaza and Ekron (9:5). The detatis of this passage are fantastic. The Scriptures promise, “… the king shall perish from Gaza …” (9:5b). Though most of the kings of the cities in that area fought for a time and then surrendered, secular history tells us that King Batis of Gaza refused to do so. The final result was that ten thousand of his people were slaughtered. He was captured and dragged through the streets until he was dead. The Bible promised this death several hundred years before it happened.
The pride of, or the great cities of, the Philistines were destroyed, and in their place foreigners moved into the ruins. Verse seven makes it very clear that the pagan worship there would be destroyed, and in its place a small remnant remaining would turn to the Lord.
Finally, in verse eight, we come to a most amazing passage. Jerusalem had been bypassed by Alexander because of his desire to quickly take the strongholds of the Philistine cities. He had tried to get the high priest of Jerusalem to pay him tribute money, which he refused to do. Alexander was enraged, promising to return to take and destroy Jerusalem after he had finished conquering the Philistines. The exact details of this are given in advance by Zechariah: “And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth . . .” (9:8).
The people of Jerusalem prayed for deliverance. Josephus, the historian, tells us the high priest had an amazing dream in which he was told to go meet Alexander and his army when they returned to Jerusalem. He was instructed to welcome them to his city. Along with a multitude of priests, all dressed in their finest robes, they went out to meet Alexander. Instead of fighting the Israelites, he saluted them and treated the city with kindness. He, too, had experienced a dream and had seen this very procession coming to meet him. Zechariah, by the Spirit of God, had seen all this in advance. The conquering heathen king was subservient to the God of Israel.
The Coming of The Divine King
In the middle of verse eight, we take one of the greatest time leaps in the Bible. Zechariah takes us from the day of Alexander to that day still future, when no human kings will conquer, besiege or oppress Jerusalem anymore. She will finally realize the truth of her name, “the city of peace.
His Coming in Humility
Israel is commanded to rejoice, for her King is coming. He will be just! He will provide salvation! Unlike Alexander, who came riding victoriously upon a white charger, He will come riding upon a donkey. No king had ever come riding a donkey since the days of Solomon, but this one will be lowly, humble and poor. He would not even have a place to call home, much less a palace. In fact, the very donkey He would ride would be borrowed. The New Testament clearly points out that Zechariah was speaking of the lowly Jesus, Israel’s King (Mt. 21:5). Surely He could not compare with Alexander the Great. But when you read the following verses, you see that His conquest is far greater than those of Alexander.
From the humiliation of the Messiah on earth and at Calvary, the prophet is directed to the glory that follows at His second coming.
First of all. He will cause war to cease. There will no longer be a need for implements of war. Furthermore, His dominion will be worldwide (9:10). The conquests of Alexander will fade into insignificance when Christ takes over.
Thirdly, He will free the Jew from his oppression forever. No longer will they be prisoners, as Joseph was in the pit. The Lord will do this in fulfillment of His covenant made in blood with Abraham so many centuries ago. He will never violate His covenant. He cries out to Israel, “Prisoners of hope, turn to Me!”
Then just to show Israel that the Lord is on their side, He promises another milestone along the way. He would use Israel to overthrow the mighty nation of Greece. They would again see the hand of the Lord upon them, delivering them at the time of the Maccabean revolt. This small incident and the defeat of Antiochus Epiphanes are great foreshadowings of the final defeat of the armies of the Antichrist. The Lord will save Israel out of the Tribulation as well as here. The Lord shows them the defeat of Alexander, Antiochus and will bring final victory to His people.
Truly, the God of Israel is great, The last two verses of chapter 9 bring out the blessedness of God to Israel in the day she finally turns to Him.
Chapter 10 verse 1 should probably be part of chapter 9, as it continues to remind the people of blessings in the Kingdom Age. Rain will come at the proper time. The fields will be green and lush, the crops plentiful. They will also experience the spiritual blessings of walking with the Lord and knowing His very presence among them meeting their every need.
In chapters 10 and 11, our attention is drawn from Israel’s final King to a shepherd. Israel is considered the flock. The Messiah desires to be Shepherd of that flock. He wants to bless her.
The question is, whether or not Israel will follow that Shepherd or false shepherds who would seek to destroy her.
Israel’s Past Unfaithful Shepherds
Most of Israel’s past woes had come from ido!atry, the occult and following after false shepherds or leaders. They lost the glory of God in their midst and the blessings He brought. There was no comfort. Trouble came their way. Ichabod was written over the nation. God was wroth with these shepherds that were not really shepherds.
The Promise of The Faithful Shepherd
Mixed in with the wrath of God against these leaders is God’s mercy upon His people. He promises to visit the house of Judah, one day making it a battle horse that will destroy these false shepherds. Christ will come and use His nation as a war horse to destroy the enemy.
Probably the most thrilling portion of this section is found in verse four, “Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together.”
To make this meaningful, we must determine the antecedent of him. It is Judah. The Word teaches us that out of Judah will come the comer, the nail, and the battle bow. This verse is a beautiful description of the Messiah. These three phrases give us great insight into the coming of the Messiah out of the tribe of Judah.
First, He is the corner or cornerstone. In Isaiah 28:16, He is called “a precious cornerstone.” In Ephesians 2:20, He is said to be the “chief cornerstone.” The late Hebrew-Christian writer, David Baron, probably best catches the point of this. He said that a cornerstone in the ancient world held two walls together. This cornerstone (Christ) holds together Israel and the Church. Where there was formerly a wall between the two, Christ broke that down and both Jew and Gentile are one in Him.
Secondly, out of Judah comes the nail. There were two kinds of nails in Zechariah’s day. One was a tent peg; the other was called a strong nail. It was driven into the center pole of the tent. All the valuables of the household were hung upon that nail. All who entered that tent could see the glory of the valuables of that home.
Isaiah gives us the dearest picture of this: “And I will fasten him like a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house. And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house . . . (Isa. 22:2324a). Eliakim is the person in context, but the prophecy goes much further than him. It is a prophecy of one coming out of the line of David who will be the nail. All the glory of God will hang on Him. This is the Messiah.
Thirdly, He is called the battle bow. Briefly, the Messiah is seen here as a warrior without equal. He will come back to conquer and rule the world, He will come on a war horse this time rather than a donkey and the oppressor will be destroyed.
The Provision of The Faithful Shepherd
He Provides Victory
The enemies will be trampled under foot. They will be brought to total subjugation. Messiah will fight for and through Israel. Rejoicing will pour out of the people as they are delivered.
He Promises Regathering
He will hiss, or better yet, whistle, and regather His people from their worldwide dispersion that has lasted for many long centuries. From all over they wilt return home. They will finally walk in fellowship with the Lord.
Rejecting The Good Shepherd
Zechariah’s name means Jehovah remembers. He is usually a messenger of comfort. However, the prophecies of this book reach their lowest ebb in chapter 11 . Israel totally rejects the Good Shepherd and follows after a false one. The Lord must bring judgment upon His people because of that rejection. The situation looks totally hopeless.
The Devastation of the Land
With vivid, striking, poetic words, the Holy Spirit promises the devastation of the entire land. From Lebanon on the north, to Bashan on the east, all the way down the Jordan Valley, judgment will fall. The false shepherds wait and lament as this great catastrophe falls upon the entire area. This passage portrays the Roman destruction that came in 70 A.D., which resulted from Israel’s total rejection of the Good Shepherd-King, Jesus, whom God had sent. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (Jn. 1:11). The nation fell! The land was destroyed.
The Devastation of the People
Zechariah is told to “. . . Feed the flock of the slaughter” (11:4). He is to still teach the flock that the Lord has prepared for butchering. This is no more than God, in mercy, giving the people yet another chance to hear His Word and heed it. He is to take two staves in his hands, just like the shepherds did. They were called beauty and bands. First, he was to break the one called beauty or graciousness. This symbolized that God’s graciousness to Israel was going to be removed because of their apostasy. Judgment would soon come. His agreement to protect Israel was gone.
In verses 11 and 12, there is a little interlude to let us see that there would be a small portion that would listen to the message and believe it. But, they would be the poor of the flock. Interestingly enough, it was only the poor and the lowly who turned to Jesus when He came.
The nation rejecting Christ would cry out, “Why do You judge us?” He points out, “Look how you treated Me! To you I was only worth thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. I came! I preached! I healed! But to you I am of no value.” He was their God and King, but to a rejecting nation He was worth nothing. That is why judgment was to come.
Finally, the other staff, which represented bands or unity, was broken. All that held the Jews together was now gone. Having rejected Messiah, they would be broken up as a nation and dispersed. All hope was gone. Brother would be pitted against brother.
Accepting the False Shepherd
Not only would the Jews reject the Good Shepherd, but they would follow a false one. There is another great prophetic time leap here. With the beginning of verse 15, we move from the Roman destruction of Jerusalem to the Tribulation period, when a false shepherd will come out of that old Roman system. The first episode dealt with the rejection of Christ at His first coming. This second one is connected with His second coming.
Zechariah is told to enact another prophetic parable. He was to take the implements of a foolish or false shepherd. They were to be those that would harm the sheep. The prophet is really told to act out the part of the Antichrist that will come.
God promises through this demonstration that this shepherd will have no interest in the flock. He will be cruel, with no concern except for himself. Rather than tending the flock, he will eat it to satisfy his own desires.
He is just the opposite of the Good Shepherd, but he is the one Israel will follow. Though the Lord raises him up as the instrument to punish His wicked people, God will in turn punish him (11:17). When he tears into Israel, God will judge him.
Israel will reject her Messiah, which she has done. She will not look to the Good Shepherd but to the bad. Though the situation appears almost hopeless, God isn’t finished with His people. Though the road will still be rough, and the final tribulation horrible, that forsaken Shepherd will return as the King. Then this true Shepherd-King wilt finally redeem the remnant of Israel and make her His own. The details of this are clearly given in the last three chapters of this book. God is not finished yet.