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Choosing the Right Shepherd

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Zechariah 9–11

Biblical prophecy reminds us of the comforting truth that God is in sovereign control of all things, including the future. It also reminds us of the need to trust Him daily and to be faithful to Him to the end.    


Choosing the Right Shepherd

Zechariah 9–11


There is an old Latin proverb that says, “Nothing is certain except the past.” Well, that isn’t exactly true. For the believer, the future is as certain as the past, because God controls it. Now God does not reveal everything to us about the future—the details of life from day to day. And that is probably a good thing, because some days we would not get out of bed if we knew what was just ahead.

The prophet Zechariah is going to provide a clear picture of Israel’s future here in chapters 9 through 11. This little struggling community of former exiles who have returned to Jerusalem and are trying to reestablish their city and temple is about to be encouraged by God’s promise of the future.

There are still more hardships ahead, and quite frankly those will be the result of their own selfish and unwise decisions. But understand this: Israel’s future, just like their past, is certain.

Zechariah is writing around 520 BC. In chapter 9, his prophecy looks ahead some 200 years to the time of Alexander the Great. The places mentioned here follow his conquests from north to south as he moves toward Egypt.

Hadrach, in verse 1, a region along the Euphrates River, will be conquered. Damascus, the capital of Syria, and Tyre and Sidon, seaport cities on the Mediterranean mentioned in verse 2, also will be conquered by Alexander as he sweeps southward. Verses 5 and 6 list several more cities he’ll conquer as well.

All you have to do is look at your history books to see that Alexander did exactly what Zechariah prophesied here. But there’s one city Alexander didn’t conquer. Verse 8 says: “Then I [the Lord] will encamp at my house as a guard, so that none shall march to and fro.” God promised to protect Jerusalem from Alexander. And that’s exactly what happened. Alexander came peaceably into Jerusalem, and the city was not destroyed.

The promise at the end of verse 8—that “no oppressor shall again march over them”—is a prophetic glimpse into the distant future of Jerusalem in that future millennial kingdom.

Verse 9 then gives us a prophecy that relates to the Messiah’s first coming:

Rejoice . . . O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you . . . humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

This is amazingly specific, for we know that centuries later King Jesus will come riding into Jerusalem, as the nation’s humble king, whom they will reject. Alexander entered Jerusalem peaceably but as a proud conqueror. Jesus would enter Jerusalem, humbly riding on the foal of a donkey. Matthew and John present this prophecy in their Gospel accounts as a fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy.[1]

In the rest of chapter 9, Zechariah again looks into the future at Christ’s second coming, when the Lord will preserve, protect, and restore Israel when He returns. Verse 16 records the promise:

On that day the Lord their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land.

This restoration of Judah and Israel and the blessing of Christ’s kingdom reign on earth are described in chapter 10. The nation will enjoy regular rain and agricultural prosperity. Verses 2-5 tell us the wicked “shepherds” who have led God’s people astray shall be punished and removed forever. Verse 3 says, “The Lord of hosts cares for his flock.” In other words, there will be no more wicked shepherds, no more flawed leaders, in that coming kingdom.

Zechariah gives us several figures for the Messiah in verse 4, where he says, “From him [that is, from Judah] shall come the cornerstone . . . the tent peg . . . [and] the battle bow.” He’s talking about the Messiah who will come from the tribe of Judah. He will be the cornerstone for the redeemed nation, the tent peg that secures “Israel to Himself,” and the battle bow that represents the Lord’s military victory.[2]

After centuries of suffering due to breaking their covenant with God, Israel will recognize Jesus as their Messiah and repent as a nation when He returns to establish His kingdom. The Lord Himself says, “I will make them strong in the Lord, and they shall walk in his name” (verse 12).

Now the trouble is, before this glorious restoration of Israel takes place at Christ’s second coming, Israel is going to reject Christ at His first coming. And that decision will have some disastrous results.

The first three verses of chapter 11 give a poetic description of coming judgment on Israel because of their rejection of Christ. Then in verse 7, Zechariah, representing the Messiah, is told to take two staffs in his hands. He names one staff “Favor” and the other staff “Union.”

Because the people of Israel reject the Lord, Zechariah breaks the staff named Favor, indicating that God’s favor has been temporarily withdrawn from the people. This act erases God’s covenant. But be careful here. This is not a reference to His covenant with Israel. Verse 10 clarifies that it is a covenant with “all the peoples”—all the nations of the world.

This indicates that in some manner “God has made a covenant with the peoples of the earth . . . He has placed them under restraint lest they [bring] Israel harm.”[3] In other words, God had held the nations back from eliminating Israel.

However, Zechariah prophesies that because of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah, Jesus, that restraint is going to be lifted, and Israel will be devastated. Indeed, only some forty years after the Lord’s death and resurrection, the Roman army put down a Jewish revolt and destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. Beloved, that temple has never been rebuilt, to this day. All this will result because they rejected Jesus, their Messiah.

Another amazingly specific prophecy is given in verse 12, where we are told that the shepherd—a reference to the Messiah—is not worth any more to Israel than thirty pieces of silver. If that sounds familiar, it is because this prophecy is fulfilled in Judas’s betrayal of Jesus for this exact amount—thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-15; 27:3-10).

Then Zechariah breaks the second staff named “Union” (verse 14). This indicates the dissolving of national unity and “a new wave of worldwide dispersion.”[4] To this day, there are millions more Jewish people scattered around the world than are living in Israel. There is no national unity today.

Chapter 11 concludes by speaking of a false shepherd that Israel will be more interested in following. In verse 15 he is called a “foolish shepherd,” and verse 16 adds that he “does not care for those being destroyed.” Who is this worthless shepherd? Well, Zechariah again is fast-forwarding the tape, so to speak, and describing the Antichrist, who will mislead Israel for a brief period of time in the future tribulation. He will be a brutal, false shepherd.

This makes me want to ask you a question today—it is actually the question of the ages—Who is your shepherd today? There are a lot of candidates out there who will mislead you. Many people are following the shepherds of career, bank accounts, and sinful pleasures. Those are false shepherds who, as Zechariah says here, are not going to care when you are destroyed.

The only shepherd worth following is the Good Shepherd. He is the one King David sang about when he penned these lyrics in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”—that is, I will never lack anything of true value; and “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters”—that is, He satisfies my heart with all that I truly need in life.

Israel rejected Him, but what about you? Let me invite you today to follow Him, to make the Good Shepherd your Shepherd today.

[1] Matthew 21:4-5; John 12:15.

[2] Michael A. Rydelnik, “Zechariah,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Moody Publishers, 2014), 1429.

[3] Charles L. Feinberg, The Minor Prophets (Moody Press, 1990), 328.

[4] F. Duane Lindsey, “Zechariah” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Victor Books, 1985), 1566.

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