Christ in the Minor Prophets: No. 11 - Zechariah

Zechariah 1‑14  •  18 min. read  •  grade level: 8
H. P. Barker
No. 11 — Zechariah
No adequate unfolding of the glories of Christ, as presented in the prophecy of Zechariah, would be possible without entering into a detailed exposition of its fourteen chapters. This, of course, is out of question in a short article like this.
It will be helpful, however, to notice that the book naturally divides itself into two portions. The first portion (Zach. 1-6), contains a series of prophetic visions; the second portion (Zach. 7-14), consists mainly of direct prophetic utterances, and is particularly rich in its personal references to Christ.
But we find that blessed One also set forth in the first, or apocalyptic, portion of the book. He is shown to be God’s great resource, in view of the breakdown and failure of Israel. For this is what we understand by His title, the “BRANCH” (Zach. 3:8; 6:12). Israel had become as a dead tree, producing no fruit, and only cumbering the ground. No tillage, no dew from heaven, no showers of rain, however abundant, availed to bring about any change.
Then God, intervening in mercy and power, brought forth in connection with that dead tree a living “Branch.” The Lord Jesus came of Israel’s race, “a root out of a dry ground,” a living branch in the midst of a lifeless profession. As such, He was Jehovah’s Servant, fulfilling His will upon the earth, and answering to all His pleasure. In Him, God had at last a Servant upon whom He could absolutely depend, One who would never fail.
Everybody else whom God had trusted with any responsibility had failed. Adam, entrusted with dominion over the earth, failed; Noah, entrusted with the sword of government, failed; Moses, entrusted with the leadership of the hosts of Israel, failed; Israel, called out to be a channel of blessing to the nations, failed and was a curse to them instead of a blessing (Zech. 8:1313And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong. (Zechariah 8:13)); David, entrusted with the honors of royalty, failed, and his kingdom had to be rent in two; the remnant of Judah, restored from captivity in Babylon and entrusted with the maintenance of Jehovah’s interests, failed; the Church, entrusted with testimony to the earth-rejected, heaven-enthroned Savior, has failed. (Grievous beyond all other failures has been that of the Church). Each of us individually, entrusted with some little bit of service for the Lord, has failed, but HE — never!
He is presented thus as God’s faithful Servant and unfailing resource, in connection with the feeble testimony of the Jews who had returned from their captivity. Haggai has shown us their failure in building the temple. In contrast to this we read: “Behold the Man whose name is the Branch’... He shall build the temple of the Lord.”
In everything committed to Him His faithfulness is manifest, and “He shall bear the glory.” Great enough to sustain the weight of all that depends upon Him, mighty enough to carry into accomplishment all that God has purposed, the glory of it all shall be His. And He is worthy!
Moreover, He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all God’s ways of blessing. Of this we are reminded in Zechariah 3 and 4. In Zechariah 3 the Foundation Stone of the temple, with its seven eyes, sets forth, symbolically, Christ as the One upon Whom God’s structure of blessing is built. In Zechariah 4. the Headstone, saluted with shoutings, symbolizes Christ as the crown and completion of that structure. If He is the foundation from which God works in blessing, He is also the One in view of Whom God works.
God ever has Christ before Him in all that He does. The worlds were created not only by Him, but for Him (Col. 1:1616For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (Colossians 1:16)). He is both Foundation Stone and Headstone of all God’s counsels.
But without going too much into detail, let us see how the prophecy before us traces out the service of Christ to God, whether in suffering or in glory.
Micah has shown us the lowly birth at Bethlehem, of Him whose goings forth have been “from everlasting.” Hosea has hinted at His journey to Egypt and His return. Isaiah has mentioned His “growing up” before Jehovah as a tender plant, and now Zechariah brings before us some of the salient features of His pathway on earth.
His Ministry
4. Thus saith the Lord my God; feed the flock of the slaughter;
5. Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, blessed be the Lord; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not.
6. For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbor’s hand, and into the hand of his king; and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them.
7. And I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock.
8. Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me.
9. Then said I, 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 the rest eat every one the flesh of another.
10. And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.
11. And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord.
In Zechariah 11 Jehovah’s flock is seen as committed to Him to be fed. Downtrodden by their “possessors” (the Romans); betrayed and sold by those who with hypocritical piety take the Lord’s Name upon their lips (Herod, and such as he); un-pitied and uncared for by those who should have been shepherds to them (the religious leaders), truly might they be called “the flock of the slaughter.”
It was the delight of Christ to feed this poor, oppressed flock. Not that the flock, as a whole, appreciated His gracious ministry. But there were some who did, and richly did He feed their souls. “I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock.” It was these, the “poor of the flock” who waited upon Him, and acknowledged that the word of Jehovah was in His mouth (ver. 2). For in this chapter the prophet himself is a figure of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ speaks in Him.
In connection with the Lord’s shepherd-ministry, in the midst of the flock, we have the incident of the two staves, Beauty and Bands. It is easy to see the significance of these; set forth two great objects that the Lord had in view when He undertook the shepherding of the flock.
The staff Beauty symbolizes that which He desired to make Israel, among the nations (“all the people” in ver. 10 should read “all the peoples,” i.e., the nations). God’s purpose for Israel was that it should be clothed with beauty — the beauty of holiness — and should be the center from which the knowledge of God should radiate to the uttermost ends of the earth.
The staff Bands symbolizes “the brotherhood between Judah and Israel” (ver. 14), the cementing of the two rival nations into one.
The Lord, in taking the flock under His care, had both these objects in view. He would beautify Israel with the knowledge of her God, and make her a focus of light and blessing to all nations, and would unite the rent and divided people into one.
But with the rejection of His ministry, both these objects had to be, for the time, abandoned. Hence the symbolical breaking of the two staves, in ver. 10 and 14. However, the day will come for both the staves to be re-united. The staff Beauty will be again taken up by Israel’s Shepherd, and Zion, “beautiful for situation,” will be the joy of the whole earth, and God will be known in her palaces for a refuge (Psa. 48:22Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. (Psalm 48:2)). Zion will then be “the perfection of beauty,” and God will Himself shine out therefrom (Psa. 1:22But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (Psalm 1:2)).
The staff Bands will also be taken up, and Israel and Judah “shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms Any more at all” (Ezek. 37:2222And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: (Ezekiel 37:22)). Thus will the Lord serve His people in days to come, even as He would have served them if they had received Him in days gone by.
His Entry Into Jerusalem
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee; He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zech. 9:99Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)).
This passage is familiar to us from its quotation in the gospels. Zion’s King, contrary to general anticipation, would not enter His royal city in pomp and splendor. He would come in lowly guise, riding upon an ass. How literally this was fulfilled we all know. But though welcomed with loud hosannas, He was not really received by the people as their God-given King. Though He brought salvation, and was just, He was not appreciated. This is brought out in chapter 11, where we have
His Valuation by the People
“And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zech. 11:12-1312And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord. (Zechariah 11:12‑13)).
Under the Mosaic law, if a slave were killed by being gored by an ox, the master of the slave was to be recompensed by the gift of thirty shekels of silver from the owner of the ox (Ex. 21:3232If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. (Exodus 21:32)). Thirty shekels of silver were therefore regarded as the equivalent of a slave. And such was the sum at which the Lord of Glory was valued by the people whom He came to bless I They regarded Him as of no more value than a slave.
Was His heart indifferent to this contemptuous valuation of Himself? Does not His grief find vent in the exclamation of pained surprise: “A goodly price that I. was prized at of them!”‘
But to deeper depths of sorrow the Savior had to go, for our prophet presents Him to us as wounded in the house of His friends.
His Crucifixion
But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth. And one shall say unto Him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then He shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zech. 13:5-65But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth. 6And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. (Zechariah 13:5‑6)).
The whole passage, if carefully examined, is full of interest. The change of subject is abrupt, but none can doubt, in view of the language of verse 7, that it is Christ Himself whose sufferings are depicted.
The concluding sentence of verse 5 would be more correctly rendered: “for man has acquired me as a bondman from my youth.” The Lord Jesus, in marvelous grace, devoted Himself from the outset to the service of man. He took the bondman’s place in order that He might effectually serve the objects of His love. But wounds and bruises were His reward, and in the house of those whom He had so devotedly befriended, His hands were pierced. The cross was the shameful answer on the part of man, to the unselfish love that only sought to serve.
But we find something further than this, namely,
His Smiting by God
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and i against the Man that is my Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones” (Zech. 13:77Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. (Zechariah 13:7)).
He is spoken of as the Man that is Jehovah’s Fellow; words that could be used of none but Himself. The Lord of hosts bids His sword awake, that His Shepherd may be smitten. Here are depths that none can fathom!
Our loss will be great if we fail to distinguish between the two kinds of smiting which the Lord Jesus endured: His wounding in the house of His friends, and His smiting at the hands of God. Both the one and the other are fully dwelt upon in the New Testament.
All the cruel sufferings heaped upon the Savior’s head by wicked men could never have made atonement for our sins. Love it was that made Him willing to suffer, and it was for the sake of truth and righteousness that He was afflicted.
But when men, instigated by Satan, had done their worst, and when the holy Sufferer was shrouded from their gaze for three hours by an impenetrable pall of darkness, God poured out upon Him the vials of His righteous judgment. He bruised Him and put Him to grief (Isa. 53:1010Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:10)); He brought Him into the dust of death (Psa. 22:1515My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. (Psalm 22:15)); He forsook Him; He made Him to be sin for us (2 Cor. 5:2121For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)); He bade His sword awake against the Man that was His Fellow.
It is here that Atonement is found. The passage in Zechariah, it is true, does not speak of this. It shows us the sheep scattered as the consequence of the Shepherd being smitten, whereas the result of atonement is that they are saved and blessed. But atonement was made when God entered into the great sin question with Christ upon the cross, and when the wrath that might so rightly have fallen upon us was poured out upon Him. No mere martyr-suffering was this. The judgment of God was visited upon the head of Christ; His soul was made an offering for sin; Jehovah’s billows rolled over Him. All praise be to Him that His love made Him willing to endure it all, not only for Israel’s sake, but for ours.
His Coming Again
“Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle” (Zech. 14:1-31Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. (Zechariah 14:1‑3)).
Subsequent to the Lord’s coming to catch up His Church from the earth, He will come again in power and glory, to establish His throne in Zion, and to reign in righteousness for a thousand years. This, His public advent, is the theme of many a glowing prophecy, in both the Old and the New Testaments. In Zechariah 14:55And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:5) we read, “The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee.”
His coming thus will be preceded by what Scripture speaks of as “the day of the Lord” (verse 1).
Various “days” are referred to, not days of twenty-four hours, but periods of time. The present age, when man seems to be having everything his own way, is spoken of as Man’s Day (1 Cor. 4:33But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. (1 Corinthians 4:3), marginal reading). The coming day of glory, when the earth shall be filled with gladness under the beneficent rule of Christ and His saints, is called the Day of Christ (Phil. 2:1616Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. (Philippians 2:16)). The eternal state which follows, when God is all in all, is called the Day of God (2 Pet. 3:1212Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (2 Peter 3:12)). But before the time of blessing comes, a period of judgment is foretold, and this period is often referred to, as in Zechariah 9:11The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the Lord. (Zechariah 9:1), as the Day of the Lord. During this space of time, Jerusalem will once more pass through the horrors of a siege. All nations will be gathered against her to battle. Relief will come, however, by the sudden appearance of Christ.
His Standing on the Mount of Olives
“And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley: and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah; and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zech. 14:4-54And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. 5And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:4‑5)).
It was from the mount of Olives that He ascended, with His hands upraised in blessing. Upon that same spot He will descend, according to chapter 14:4. The mountain will be cleft in two: but Jerusalem will rejoice, for her deliverance will have come.
His Recognition by Israel
“They shall look upon Me, whom they have pierced” (Zech.12:10).
Anointed with “the spirit of grace and of supplication,” they shall bitterly repent of their treatment of their Messiah. With stricken hearts and streaming eyes, they shall look upon Him.
Glad recognition and true repentance on their part, will be at once followed by acknowledgment, on God’s part, that they are once again His people.
I will say, it is My people!” “They shall say, the Lord is my God!” (13:9).
His Destruction of the Enemy
When the Lord comes, He will find a great assemblage of the world’s battle-forces arrayed against Jerusalem. He will at once espouse His people’s cause, and will “go forth, and fight against those nations” (Zech. 14:33Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. (Zechariah 14:3)). A previous chapter speaks of the destruction of Antichrist (Zech 11:17). All that is contrary to Christ will be swept out of the way in judgment.
His Reign Over the Earth
“The Lord shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and His Name One” (Zech. 14:99And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9)).
No rival kings will then be found, no clashing of interests, no jealousies of nations. All shall be subdued to His rule.
His Royal Priesthood
A remarkable passage (chap. 6:13) tells us that when the kingdom is established, Christ will “be a Priest upon His throne,” and that the counsel of peace shall be between Him (as such) and Jehovah.
As King, He administers the royal bounty of God to His subjects, He secures them from danger, and causes them to dwell in peace. As Priest, He maintains Jehovah’s interests among them, and is the means of their approach to God. In connection with this priestly function which the Lord will exercise in that day, we find
His Building of the Temple
“And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH: and He shall grow up out of His place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord: And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord; and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Zech. 6:12, 1512And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord: (Zechariah 6:12)
15And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God. (Zechariah 6:15)
).
The temple re-built in the time of Zechariah was beautified and enlarged by Herod, but was destroyed by the Romans. A future temple, to be built by the. Jews in unbelief, will also be destroyed (Dan. 8:1111Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. (Daniel 8:11)). But Messiah Himself, the Priest-King, shall build the temple which will be the center of Israel’s worship in the days to come. He will graciously permit others to be associated with Him in this work (ver. 5), but under His own eye the temple walls shall rise, and He will be its light and glory.
In that day men shall go up from year to year to worship the King (14:16). Jerusalem shall be marked by holiness, even to the bells of the horses, and the bowls and pots.
A vast system of blessing and glory, embracing unnumbered millions, under its beneficent influence will then be brought into being. And the center of it all, its Pillar and Upholder, its Sun and its Brightness, will be CHRIST! What joy to us to contemplate that scene, though finding our own portion in a yet higher sphere, the Father’s house above, where as sons we shall be at home, breathing the atmosphere of divine love, and knowing in blessed and holy intimacy, the Father and the Son.
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God is wont to frustrate our devices. As children, we may ask for the in order to execute His own purposes, understanding of God’s will; but it and thereby to do us good to the utmost belongs not to us to think for Him.