10. Messiah's Rejection
Please do read Zechariah 11:1-17
So far in our journey we have seen that the future is glory for the Servant Messiah and all those who choose to follow Him! It is a future of hope, joy, excitement, awe, wonderment and glory. But that is only one side of the future. In Zechariah 11, we come to another part of the future; the part of the future which is for all those who would reject God's Servant Messiah. While Zechariah talks in picture language and symbols, the overall message is startlingly clear: those who reject the Messiah, will in the future be rejected by Him! But we are not given the full details here, but rather are told the why it will happen.
Judgment is coming
Here in Zechariah 11:1-3 we see this judgement coming. The strong barriers of the door are removed! There are no barriers strong enough to escape the judgment of God Almighty. Fire will destroy the mighty cedar trees (Zechariah 11:1), tall pines will fall wantonly (Zechariah 11:2) and fertile land will be decimated as will the places where lions inhabit (Zechariah 11:3). Why are the shepherds crying out in dismay and angst? Not for the land, the trees and animals! No! They were crying out in anguish because of their loss of income! They were too busy ripping off those the people they were meant to lead, rather than leading the people rightly and righteously. They were leaders only for what they could get out of the position they held. They were corrupt, deceitful and arrogant. How were the mighty cedars destroyed and barriers broken down? History tells us that the Roman Empire swept through Lebanon, subduing the entire Lebanese leadership & independent authority under its mighty power.
The Good Shepherd
Now in Zechariah 11:4-14 we see God offering one last opportunity for the leaders of Israel to obey Almighty God. The leaders of Israel were not looking after the people. Instead they were abandoning them and looking only after themselves. These leaders, or shepherds, as they are referred to here were selling their own people into slavery of other nations and getting very rich because of it (Zechariah 11:5)! It was the height of hypocrisy because they were even praising God for their wealth achieved by disobedience, deceit and lust for money.
Zechariah is asked now to play a role - representing the Shepherd Messiah feeding the sheep (Zechariah 11:4). God issues judgment against the people of Israel, particularly the leaders, and will hand them over to their neighbours. Since the leaders showed neither pity nor mercy, neither shall God show mercy or pity on them (Zechariah 11:6).
Zechariah continues his role as the Good Shepherd, performing much the same way the Shepherd Messiah will do, when He comes. He tends to caring for the lost, oppressed, poor and afflicted. Just as we have seen earlier that the Shepherd Messiah will do. Now Zechariah takes too staffs, naming one ‘Favour' and the other ‘Union' (Zechariah 11:7). As part of his work, three of the false leaders or shepherds are disposed off within one month. These leaders could have been kings, priests or prophets. Disposed off, because when the Shepherd Messiah comes, He will be as we have seen a Messiah King, Messiah Priest and Messiah Prophet, all simultaneously.
But now, in Zechariah 11:8, Zechariah as the Good Shepherd is rejected! The same way that the Shepherd Messiah will be rejected as we saw in Isaiah 53.
Good Shepherd Judges
Eventually Zechariah the Good Shepherd tires of the people's disobedience and recalcitrant attitudes and behaviour. In Zechariah 11:9-11, he says "I will not feed you. That which dies, let it die; and that which is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let those who are left eat each other's flesh." I took my staff Favor, and cut it apart, that I might break my covenant that I had made with all the peoples. It was broken in that day; and thus the poor of the flock that listened to me knew that it was the word of Yahweh." So because of the leadership's disobedience and self-righteousness, God is stopping the covenant between them and this is symbolized by breaking the staff called ‘Favour'. God has always kept His word and was always faithful in keeping His covenants with people and Israel. But because of the Israel's disobedience the covenant was now void and invalid. The Good Shepherd is rejected.
The Foolish Shepherd.
Now Zechariah is to play a foolish Shepherd. This foolish Shepherd has no time for people who are lost, oppressed, poor and afflicted. He is only interested in himself and his own gain. He will not look out for the sick in order to heal them or feed those who are hungry. This foolish Shepherd is the contrast of Zechariah as the Good Shepherd and of the Shepherd Messiah to come. What is the judgement upon this Foolish Shepherd? His power will be taken away and his intelligence dimmed. The staff, called ‘Union', is broken in order to symbolize the break up of the nation of Israel into north and south.
Where is Jesus the Messiah in here?
Jesus was offended and dismayed by the behaviour of, and the active disobedience by, the leaders of Israel. He frequently told the Pharisees, Priests and other leaders that they were oppressing the poor, didn't care for the lost, neglected orphans and widows. For example, Matthew 12:34 You offspring of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." Or Matthew 15:3, where Jesus speaks to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, saying "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?" Yes, Jesus spent time judging and condemning the leaders of Israel for their selfishness, deceit and dishonesty.
In contrast to the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus as the Good Shepherd, did seek the lost, the orphans, widows and oppressed. He desired to spend time with them, having compassion upon them. He healed the sick, fed the masses, gave wise counsel and proclaimed love to those who were the unloved of society. Jesus when he looked over the crowds, commented that they were like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9v36).
Jesus said in John 10v10, that He gives His life that all those who follow Him, will have it more abundantly. Jesus as the Great Shepherd came to earth in order to bring sheep back into the fold; that is to bring people back into a full relationship with God. Jesus here in John 10, is looking ahead to His death on the cross as a means of facilitating the way for people to come back into a living relationship with God. Jesus fed people, but not only physically, but spiritually! Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Shepherd Messiah as enacted by Zechariah.
Jesus the Shepherd Messiah was rejected! Rejected by the leaders of Israel, who accused him of being demon-possessed. Rejected as He hung on a cross for the sins of the world. Rejected because of who He was - the Shepherd Messiah, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep, the people of the world. Jesus, the Shepherd Messiah who is also priest, prophet and prince. Priest because He mediates between humanity and God the Father. Prophet because He spoke forth God's word. Prince, because He is a King Messiah and is the Prince of Peace.
This Jesus, who through the Holy Spirit, beckons people to come back into relationship with God. Just as a shepherd cares for sheep and seeks any that are lost, so too does Jesus seek out those who are lost and still reject Him. One day it will be too late, and if Jesus is rejected in this life, then in the judgement to come, He will reject all those who reject Him now.