Five hundred years before Judas sold the Good Shepherd for 30 pieces of silver, which was the price of a slave; and then, being seized with remorse, flung the price of blood upon the Temple-pavement – that scene had been enacted in the streets of Jerusalem, when it had freshly risen from its ruins. Here in this chapter, we have prophecy in action as well as in prediction; for the Holy Spirit often led the prophets to embody, in striking deeds, the conceptions of the future which He had impressed upon their minds.
At this time, the Jewish people were apparently in a particularly unfortunate situation. It seems that Joshua and Zerubbabel had both passed away, and the rulers and priests who had succeeded them were motivated by the most violent passions. They resembled fire, devouring the cedars of Lebanon; or the ax, by which the oaks of Bashan are chopped down. They slew the flock that they were entrusted with in order to enrich themselves with the fleece, and the people became a prey to their insatiable appetite for self-aggrandizement. It was under such circumstances that Zechariah felt called upon to become the shepherd of Jehovah’s poor and persecuted flock, and to stand in the breach which should have been filled by faithful and righteous men. Whether or not the people generally recognized the Divine authority of his ministry is not known; but he strongly realized the call of God, and fed “the flock of the slaughter” – that is, the most miserable of the sheep (verses 4 and 7).
Two staves were in the prophet’s hand. The one was a club to beat back the beasts of prey; and the other was a shepherd’s crook, with which to extricate any of his sheep that might have fallen into a pit or become entangled in a thicket. The one was called Beauty, or Grace; and the other was named Bands, or Union. These were the rod and staff of which David had sung in earlier days (Psalm 23:4), and they represent Christ’s perpetual attitude toward His sheep. He always deals with them in abundant grace; and He is united to them, as they should be united to each other, by the bonds of everlasting love.
Three shepherds (verse 8) – who probably stand for the threefold office of prophet, priest, and king – had already failed in the difficult work of restoring order to the disturbed and distressed sheep of the house of Israel. There had been an irreconcilable disagreement between them and the Divine Spirit. And after a brief effort to reclaim Israel for its true Shepherd, Zechariah renounced the attempt, saying, “I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let them which are left, eat every one the flesh of another!” (verse 9) Then he broke his staff of beautiful grace into two pieces (verse 10), as if to show that the tender love of God had withdrawn from its long wrestle with such stubborn pride and self-will. And as he did this symbolic action, the poor of the flock who gave heed unto him knew that he was acting in accordance with the Word of the Lord (verse 11).
Then came the crucial test. The prophet challenged the people to appraise his services, and to give him their estimate in monetary value (verse 12). In contempt and scorn, they weighed out to him 30 pieces of silver – the price for which a common slave was bought and sold. “There, you prophet of God,” they seemed to say; “take that! Your services are as worthless to the community as those of some obscure slave employed in the lowest service.” Thirty pieces of silver! A good price indeed for the intercessory prayers and sorrowful tears of a devout man of God, and for his heart of compassion and his life of absolute self-surrender! “Cast it unto the potter,” said the inner voice of the Holy Spirit (verse 13). Then the prophet also broke in pieces the other staff, Bands; and this signified that the brotherhood between Judah and Israel would be broken, just as the staff was. And as for this ungrateful flock of sheep, they were doomed to pass into the hand of rulers who would devour their flesh, and who would drive them along paths so rough and flinty that their hoofs would be torn in pieces – a prediction which had a terrible fulfillment in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes; whose cruelties toward the Jews instigated the heroic uprising of the Maccabees, and led to deeds of faith and prowess which will be forever famous in the historical annals of the world!
Five centuries passed away; and in the days of Herod the Great (another of those tyrannical rulers), Jehovah made one last effort to reclaim His wandering sheep, who were “scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). Full of grace and truth, and fresh from the bosom of the Father, Jesus was sent to gather His flock which had been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. With His staff of grace and His shepherd’s crook of love, the Good Shepherd would have brought His flock out from the dangers that threatened it. But alas! They would have none of Him. He would have gathered them as the hen gathers her brood of chicks, yet they would not have any of it. Therefore, He broke His rod and His staff, and abandoned them to the results of their sins. And between Judas and the priests, a despicable bargain of 30 silver pieces was struck; and for this little amount, the Messiah was sold, betrayed, and done away to death. O that the Lord would preserve us from rejecting the Good Shepherd of our souls, as the Jews did, who treated Him as if He were worth no more than 30 despicable coins!
Lord Jesus, we thank You for being our Good Shepherd, Who is full of grace and truth, and Who gathers the lost sheep which have been scattered in the cloudy and dark days! Amen.
If you prefer to listen, today’s Family Bible guide is available in audio format on both SermonAudio and YouTube.
Join other families all around the globe and receive the full-color, freely downloadable format of these thoughts in your email every day! It’s my prayer that you and your family will be equipped to receive abundant blessings from the hand of the Lord as you study His Word and worship in His presence together.
photo by Ekrem Osmanoglu | Unsplash.com