The Book of Zechariah
THE WRATH OF GOD
1. Zechariah chapter 11 deals with the wrath of God. Normally, cause comes before the result. But Zech. 11 opens with a picture of the result of the wrath of God.
2. Later the cause of that wrath is explained: Israel had rejected their Messiah.
3. Tonight, as we move ahead in our series on Zechariah, we will look at the certainty of God’s wrath and judgment, and the cause of God’s wrath and judgment.
I. THE CERTAINTY OF GOD’S WRATH & JUDGMENT (11:1-6)
1. The chapter begins with the words, “Open thy doors, O Lebanon…” The cedar trees of Lebanon were famous. Much of Solomon’s temple was built with the cedars of Lebanon, as was his own palace.
2. Interestingly, the modern flag of Lebanon has a cedar on it. And yet, today, there are very few cedars left in that region (cf. Jer. 22:6).
3. These beautiful cedars would be “devoured” by fire (Zech. 11:1). Most expositors believe this refers to the judgment which resulted from the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ, when the Roman army invaded Jerusalem in AD 70.
4. The fir tree was enjoined to “howl,” for the mighty trees are spoiled and ruined (11:2). The famous oaks of Bashan were to howl also because “the forest of the vintage is come down” (11:2).
5. This is a majestic picture of the judgment of God – the trees mournfully howling together as God’s fiery judgment whips through the land.
6. The conflagration swept down to the plains, where the shepherds too were howling, “for their glory (i.e., the beautiful pasture lands where they tended their flocks) is spoiled” (11:3).
7. “The pride of Jordan” refers to the jungle-like growth that covers the Jordan Valley, south of the Sea of the Galilee.
8. The “young lions” (11:3) refer to those already weaned. They were fierce and agile. Psalm 104:21 says, “The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.”
9. Here they are “roaring” because God spoiled “the pride of Jordan,” i.e., the place where they lived.
10. Zechariah does not state when this judgment will take place. However, it appears to be the result of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah. Jesus warned them, “Behold, your house (referring to the temple) is left unto you desolate” (Matt. 23:38). Immediately after this warning, the disciples pointed out how beautiful the temple was (Matt. 24:1). Our Lord replied that their beautiful temple would be destroyed (Matt. 24:2).
11. This happened in AD 70, when Titus and the Roman army besieged Jerusalem and destroyed both the city and the temple.
12. Israel is likened to a flock ready for the slaughter (Zech. 11:4; cf. Ps. 44:22). They were doomed to be slaughtered by the Romans for their sin. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, a million and a half Jews died at that time.
13. In the O.T. Israel is often described as sheep (Zech. 11:4).
14. “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. (Ps. 95:7).
15. “Know ye that the LORD, he is God; it is he who hath make us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps. 100:3).
16. In the N.T. our Lord’s disciples are described as sheep (John 10:27-30).
17. The Jewish people were being bought and sold by their own leaders (“their own shepherds” – 11:5). This was obvious in Zechariah’s day as well as in our Lord’s day. And it will continue to be that way up and until their spiritually blind leaders embrace the antichrist (vss. 15-17).
18. God “will deliver” them to be oppressed by the Gentiles (11:6). Their “king” would be Caesar, not the Messiah. “Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).
II. THE CAUSE OF GOD’S WRATH AND JUDGMENT – THE REJECTION OF MESSIAH (11:7-14)
1. The prophet took “two staves” (11:7), i.e. shepherd’s rods. One was a club used to beat off wild beasts, the other was a crooked staff for retrieving a wandering sheep. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).
2. One was called Beauty, and the other Bands (11:7). The significance of these names will become apparent when we get down to verses 10 and 14.
3. There is much speculation over the identity of the “three shepherds” (11:8). The Bible does not identify them. The best suggestion I have heard is that they represent the worldly, unsaved religious leaders of Israel (cf. Jer. 2:8). There is nothing more horrible than apostates!
4. Breaking His staff and cutting it asunder symbolizes God breaking His covenant with Israel (11:10). “Beauty” could also be translated “Graciousness” (cf. Scofield notes), meaning that God’s grace would be withdrawn. God is gracious and merciful and longsuffering. But there comes a time when God’s mercy and longsuffering are exhausted (for example, the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah).
5. That is what happened to the nation Israel. God’s patience was exhausted and He withdrew His covenant. He could no longer deal with them in mercy. He would no longer be gracious to them.
6. In the Bible, God makes unconditional covenants, which can never be broken, and conditional covenants which can be broken. This covenant was conditional and depended upon Israel’s obedience to God. Since they did not keep their part of the covenant, God broke the covenant. However, it was not broken permanently (cf. Rom. 11:1-5). One day it will be renewed (Rom. 11:26, 27).
7. Scofield identifies “the poor of the flock” (11:11) as the “remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). They “waited upon” the Lord and they “knew that it was the word of the Lord” (11:1). Do you know that this is the Word of the Lord?
8. Now in 11:12, we can clearly see the reason for God’s judgment on Israel – the shameful and wicked way they treated our Lord. In their estimation He was only worth 30 pieces of silver, the price paid for a slave gored by an ox (cf. Ex. 21:32).
9. Matthew 26:14-16 shows us how this prophecy was fulfilled. This was a cruel insult, designed to show their hatred towards God.
10. This was literally fulfilled when Judas Iscariot cast down the 30 pieces of silver in the temple. The chief priests took the money and bought a field from a potter, “to bury strangers in” (Matt. 27:3-10).
11. The prophet Jeremiah alludes to the potter’s house and the purchase of a field (18:1-4; 32:6-9). This could be why Matthew referred to him instead of Zechariah. Also, Jeremiah was more well-known, and the first book in the book of the prophets.
12. The reference to “a goodly price” (11:13) is sarcastic. Casting the money down is a gesture of disgust.
13. The first staff, Beauty, had already been destroyed (11:10). The second staff, Bands (meaning “unity”) is next “cut asunder” (11:14). This represents internal dissension and disunity (cf. Matt. 10:21).
14. In the days of our Lord, there was great disunity among the people of Israel. They were divided into Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Zealots, Essenes, and other various groups. It is the same today with the Reformed, and the Conservative, and the various Orthodox groups. Only their Jewish heritage binds them together.
III. THE CAUSE OF GOD’S WRATH AND JUDGMENT – THE ACCEPTANCE OF ANTICHRIST (11:15-17)
1. We just saw the cause of God’s wrath and judgment – the rejection of Messiah. Next, the Lord reveals unto Zechariah the prophecy concerning their acceptance of the false messiah, the “foolish shepherd” (11:15; cf. John 5:43).
2. Harry Ironside calls this foolish shepherd the “anti-shepherd, who seeks only his own exaltation and cares not for the ruin and scattering of Jehovah’s flock.”
3. In the Bible “foolish” means much more than silliness – it usually means terrible wickedness (cf. Prov. 5:21-23; 13:15, 16).
4. In the O.T. a fool is a man who turns from God and leaves God out of his life. Do you know anyone like that? (cf. Ps. 14:1). “Folly” in the O.T. often means horrible sin, not silly mischief (cf. Gen. 34:7; Deut. 22:21; Judges 19:22, 23).
5. Israel’s rejection of the Good Shepherd was judicially punished by their accepting the foolish shepherd (cf. John 5:43).
6. The Bible plainly states that God “will raise up” the antichrist (11:16). The Bible teaches that God raises up kings and leaders, and God brings them down (Prov. 21:1; Dan. 5:18-21).
7. The selfish, inconsiderate ways of the foolish shepherd are in sharp contrast with the tender, unselfish care of the Good Shepherd (11:16).
8. “He shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces” (11:16b). He will viciously prey upon the sheep like a dangerous, greedy wolf. He will devour them and utterly destroy them. This is why he is identified in the book of Revelation as “the beast.”
9. This graphic picture of the beast tearing their “claws in pieces” (11:16b) suggests that the antichrist will greedily devour every last edible morsel. It not only exposes the unbridled rapacity of the antichrist but also the unbridled rapacity of all false prophets and apostates (cf. Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29-31).
10. What a contrast to the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep.
11. God will judge “the idol shepherd” (11:17; cf. Dan. 7:11; Rev. 19:20; 20:10).
1. The antichrist could very well be alive today for all we know. He will be accepted world-wide as mankind’s greatest hope for peace and prosperity.
2. He will advocate “unity” and will be worshipped and adored by spiritually blind and sin-hardened mankind (Rev. 13:4).
3. I hope there is no one here tonight who will be among his followers. I believe that those who hear the Gospel now and reject it could be deceived by him, hopelessly deluded, and eternally damned (II Thess. 2:7-12).