OCTOBER 31, 2004  -  ZECHARIAH 11





The Selling Yards




OCTOBER 31, 2004  -  ZECHARIAH 11




THE PRICE OF GOD – The Selling Yards


We, then, have the dubious advantage of having seen many sales, both metaphorical and historical, both political and philosophical, both revolutionary and ravaging. Let us now however attend to Zechariah 11 and see in its prophetic context, the sale not of the century, but of the ages!

Let us recall first, the thrust of Zechariah 10.

Having presented the ultimate outcome for the Jewish remnant, when all is past, and their blessedness is fulfilled, in Ch. 10, now in Ch. 11, the prophet plunges us into a fire reaching to the famed cedars of Lebanon, and assailing the Jordan's pride.  Frontier lands for Israel are denoted, and the concept of pride being demolished, height abased, devastation being fundamental comes with the threatening note tempered only by the acute sense of a desolation which affects the heart.



In the midst of this concentration on the final result, in the negative aspect, there is reference to the people themselves in 11:4ff.. God is appalled at the slaughter of the flock, the harsh and intemperate treatment of the people by arrogant power concentrates, indeed false shepherds in the nation, false shepherd, princes and priests, the three a collusion in contempt of compassion (cf. Jeremiah 5:30-31). Looking forward from where the nation is in his own day, thus Zechariah comes to the Messianic peak, as so often before (as in Chs. 2-4). We come to the crux, that there is an affront to the Lord so vast and gross, that the people are to be left to their devices and for that matter, to their demolition (Zech. 11:6,9).

First, however, in verse 4, despite the inglorious regime of the false shepherds, and indeed because of it and in the midst of it, the speaker, "I" is instructed to feed the flock. Thus the speaker, who is the Lord (as in Isaiah 48:16, Psalm 45), feeds the flock of the slaughter, that is, those who are destined to the slaughter. Why however are they to occupy with such certainty so pitiful a place as this ? It is because they will foolishly reject their real Prince, and be subjected to a foul rule instead. Then, not merely will they be a people abused, but a nation abusing the Good Shepherd, the very Redeemer Himself, taking advantage of His incarnation to show their hearts by their red hands.

As "the flock of the slaughter", their name, therefore, they require an explanation. It is not slow in being forthcoming, for in the very next verses, it speaks both of shepherd and flock in the land, and assigns them all to an evil time, one in which HE will not deliver them. We then see the procedure which justifies such action. We learn of the three shepherds dismissed in one month (11:6).

Three shepherds, presumably the priestly, princely and prophetic pollutants, leaders in infamy of departure from the living God, from His justice, His care, His concern and His compassion (as in the charge made in Ezekiel 34, in such depth and scope): these three are to be defiled into nonentity in one short period (Zech. 11:8). The Lord will cut them off! Was this body of 'three shepherds' noted by Zechariah,  a reference in the prophetic perfect, in the sense of seeing the thing to come as already done, which is normative in much predictive prophecy ? The verses following confirm that it is so.

Does it therefore apply to the demolition of the name of Pilate, prince, with the Sanhedrin, the Jewish regime's appointment, of Caiaphas and of Judas, or his supporters in infamy ? These three shepherds, phases of national power or opportunity, abusers of privilege and scope, all are shown in Zechariah 11 as objects of a devastation of no mean compass. All are made a mere demolition, destroyed, annihilated, like a house exploded and fallen. Again,  as the folly came to fruition, it is as if the new fruit showed its intrinsic rottenness on arrival. Some fruit is like that: it is gone before ever it is good!


                                                          II   THE   SOLD SHEPHERD

Thus there comes a crisis. He who was busy feeding the doomed flock of the slaughter, now "said, I will not feed you. Let what is dying die ..." (Zech. 11:9). We see why this is so in verse 12, where an infamous transaction is to take place, and is predicted. The Divine Shepherd is to be SOLD! Like Joseph He is to be sent to the slave market, to labour in the rigors of death for the unrighteousness of those serving their own human interests, and defaulting on their responsibilities and commitment alike.

This prediction is exactly fulfilled in emotion, in intent and in words inscribed for ever on the heart of man, in Christ's declaration as He was being taken to the Cross, one addressed to the "daughters of Jerusalem", the common designation for the existing generation in the history of the nation. It was this (Luke 23:26-31): WEEP NOT FOR ME, BUT FOR YOURSELVES! He cried.

Here is the fulfilment and the ground of the predicted divine action, written in Zechariah 11:9. Here is the SOLD SHEPHERD warning them of what is to come when the false shepherds get their head.

The ground of it is simply that Christ is being FORCIBLY REMOVED from this earth, and is being paraded before the people as He goes, not to the throne at this time, as is and ever since that time has been the need for the world, but to His execution. That this sale is predicted in type, in nature, in emotional and spiritual significance, indeed in its application as atoning gift for those who receive Him as Lord and Saviour, in reality says nothing concerning the results of REJECTION! What you have sold is not now there for you...

What therefore does say something on this is the fact that on His being so removed, and this with such a concentrate of fury and folly, His people are left, in the sense that His nation is now available for the slaughter to come, as it surely did come like a derailed express train, one generation later, around AD 70, when Rome did its slaughterous work on the city and the State.

It is worth noting, in the meantime, for those even today, so ecclesiastically minded as to make the church their very vault of majesty, or worse, the State as overlord of the church, that the false shepherds, authoritative exponents of their delusions, these were churchly figures such Caiaphas and Pilate, to whom were linked Herod and their ilk: and they were LOATHED by the Lord (Zech. 11:8), and they loathed Him! It is not mere difference or divergence. IF you set up and teach ANYTHING in competition with Christ, social, ecclesiastical, military, political, philosophical (cf. Colossians 2:8), humanism, evolutionism, callow internationalism, you ask for the terrors of heart, mind and the militias of terrorism, mental, imperial or other. The Lord is Himself the one in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells in bodily form (Col. 2:9). In our generation, they asked for Hitler and Mao, and they gained the atomic bomb and militant Islam as well.

This is the result when such secondary or subordinate matters move your motivations and pollute the purity that might have been for you, when the secondary becomes the primary, when the body aspires to become the head! IF, says Isaiah, they do not receive the divine testimonies it is because there is NO LIGHT IN THEM (Is. 8:20). Of these, he declaims not that there is a measure of light. That is the contradiction of the statement. There is none.

This ensemble of falsity, this threesome, God loathes, as you see for example in Mark 7:7ff.. It is not mere diversity; it is adversity, it is outrage. It is contemptible, it is arrogant, it is arrogation of His mouth to their own minds, or the justification or acceptance of others who do this; and in the end, it is contemptuous of Him!

As to these loathed frauds, they were - as they are, spoilers of the flock, prowling wolves with or without sheep's clothing, as the case might be. Accordingly, having dismissed these treacherous irrelevancies in one month, He determines not to feed the flock. All phases of shepherding being betrayed, and He removed, they are left as prey.

Taking now His Shepherd's staffs in the elegant and eloquent symbolism given to the prophet, the Lord breaks them. It is HE as in Ezekiel 34, who IS the Shepherd, and when on earth, it is HE whom they slay ... a strange flock! So He breaks the Staff called Beauty - the beauty of holiness, since where now is the holiness! and the Staff called Bonds, or Binding, which signifies the cohesion of the body, and the confraternity in His body, which now is not His body, but something ready for overrule and ruin (Zech. 11:10). It is of course the Lord Himself, that Good Shepherd as in Ezekiel 34, who does, and who alone COULD do such a thing as break the relationship between God and man in this case, by covenantal judgment (Zech. 11:10). The action now asks for judgment to become invasive!


                                                                III   THE  PRICE  PAID

We then come in Zech. 11:12 to one of the most intriguing ironies of all time. We see now the action of the sale of God, of the Lord Himself. It is dramatised.

"Then I said to them, 'If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.'

"So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.

"And the Lord said to me, 'Throw it to the potter'—that princely price they set on me.
So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter.
Then I cut in two my other staff, Bonds, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel."

You notice first the divine humility: IF it is agreeable to you!

Imagine even an employer saying this ? One might, but the LORD of creation! If it is agreeable to you, give me MY WAGES! There is a Shepherd who has healed multitudes of the sick, raised the dead, fed the listening, performed the works which none can imitate, and spoken the words which remain directive of history and immutable in truth; and He asks for His wages! After all, the immediate work is finished ?

It is as if He questions them:

Would you like then, since you do not wish My services, to end the matter with a payment ?

Let us see now, they reply:  for this truth, this fulfilment of the prophecies for our nation and for the world, for kindness and power, for truth and wonder, for works only God could perform, your due is sure.

What then shall it be ? It is this. It is a slow and suffocating death involving disfigurement of your face and a loss of the look of your features which will dehumanise you to all appearance. How would that do ? (cf. Isaiah 50:4-6, 53:1-11, Psalm 22).


Let it be so! is the implicit divine reply. After all, as Christ made so clear, HE HAD TO DIE thus, since the prophecy which is the word of the God of all planning and promise, had to be fulfilled (Matthew 26:52ff.). Indeed, the prophet had to 'perish' in Jerusalem!

This we see in Luke 13:32ff.. Christ has a message for shepherd Herod.

"Go ye, and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow,
and the third day I shall be perfected.

"Nevertheless I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following:
for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.'

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to you;
how often would I have gathered your children together,
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

"Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I tell you,
You shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say,

      'Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.' "

These things then having been made clear, what is the Lord to do with the actual material payment made for His betrayal ? There is, after all, not only the actual payment to HIM, unkind in kind, but the one to His betrayer. That is the price of God, just as the death is the wages. What price God ? So God instructs them to throw the 30 pieces of silver which was Judas' fulfilment of the prediction, to the potter.

THROW His wages ? Certainly. In this monetary sense, He is paid by one of His former followers stretching out his traitorous hand. The prophet, involved in the vision, then takes this princely sum for God, and throws it "to the house of the LORD for the potter."

The house of the Lord ? This signifies that the betrayal involved the religious authorities of the nation, as it did, this too being as always, precisely fulfilled. For the potter ? In fact, it was for the potter's field, which the guilty priesthood decided to buy with the price paid for Christ's betrayal, by Judas. As it is the potter's field (Matthew 27:9-10), so the potter is the agent in view, whether metaphorically or literally. This of course has many overtones.

First, it was Jeremiah, as seen in 18:2, 19:2 following, who though first watching the potter reshaping an imperfect pottery, being fashioned, also dashed in symbol, a hard potter’s flask, to signify ruin. It was he who announced that "I will break this people and this city as one breaks a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again, and they shall bury them in Tophet" (19:11).

The symbolism in the prediction, as in the interwoven fulfilment, is intense. First, the plot of land actually bought by the New Testament priests was for burial of poor people. It was symbol of the NEED for burial and hence of judgment. Secondly, it was with Jeremiah, the notable exponent of judgment earlier, that the concept of a potter and judgment was aroused.

Casting it to the potter, in such a famous context, would virtually mean this, Give the wages of infamy to the one, the 'potter' who is a maker of what when fully formed and broken, is irremediable in kind! Finished pottery breaks into shards! Give it, thirdly, as a symbol of the uttermost judgment therefore. The judgment of breaking the Staff, Bonds, the integrality of people and God, of believer with believer, comes immediately after the sale of God, as does the announcement of the replacement, the foolish Shepherd.

What on earth or in the regions beyond did they think they were doing, giving 'wages' to the Shepherd! Will man pay God ? Yet the breach of the covenant, the dissolution of its ties, the irony of the 'princely sum' for the 'pay' and the casting of the amount to the potter, that famous symbolism national ruin drawn from Jeremiah's ministry, these things together with the arrival of the foolish Shepherd to come as all this was completed, make it clear that the payment is mere riot, that the request for wages is an elaborate expression of the divine contempt for their treatment of the Messiah.

Indeed, as Zechariah 12:10 to come shows in retrospect, it is a piercing of their Shepherd, their Lord, which is His wages, one of which they will come to repent. The 30 pieces are the price, but of what they are actually the price is dismissal of the divine, allowing a replacment suitable to such action (as in Psalm 109).

It is therefore as if the Lord were asking of the disbelieving transgressors, the mutineers against divine mercy, 'Perhaps you would like to engage in the payment of wages for all that the Messiah has just done for you?' in order to highlight the enormity of their ingratitude, when the 'payment' , a pay-back, comes into force, and they pierce their king.

Thus was the price paid, first to sell God, and then to symbolise the national penalty! The forerunner in Jeremiah 19:10-11, involved this: “I will break this people”! So were they scurrying from nation to nation, till their promised return (Deuteronomy 32:36ff.).

Then, to revert to the order of events, as in Zech. 11:14, the Lord broke His second Shepherd's staff, thus disbanding Israel's sectional residues into mere homogeneity, for the disbanding was for a nation to be strewn to the winds, like leaves in Autumn, decaying as they went, going as they decayed. Tragic in the extreme, it is yet the price of selling God. It was also the price for the breach of the covenant, as had been announced so explicitly and in a variety of stages, in Leviticus 26!

Had not the blessings and the cursings been made geographic even in the declarations at Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal, of blessings and cursings, according as the covenant was, or was not, annulled in evil practice (Deut. 27-28). Soon (Zech. 11:15-17) they would have a false shepherd inherit the vacuum, Rome would suffice for horror and devastation of Israel in its day, and at that, no distant day from the murder of the Messiah; and after that, the antichrist to come! Neither right eye nor arm would be sound to do right in this foul being, both blatant and pompously weak (11:17).

Let us meanwhile examine a little more closely the irony in the 'princely price' for which the Lord was sold. In fact, it was not given to Him or His friends, but to His betrayer, as foretold in Psalm 41, 69, 109; and thus we must ask in what sense is it a payment for His services ? In this sense, it is so: that the price is to the enemy of Christ, so that it is a part of His sacking from the Shepherd's post, the Messianic Shepherd at that. It is the price of murder. In other words, it is the price paid to secure the actual account set to His name by the High Priest, whose disbelief beggared reason and justice alike (Mark 14:62-64). The wages are retributive in kind, as if an employer were to announce to a worker,

'Wages ? Oh yes, you'll have your wages. These are dismissal and court action for disruption of the work force, action against management and attempt at independent running of the system. You will be paid in full, have no doubt of that, and our interest in the interest to be charged you will not be slight!'

The account for which that price was paid, that it might be charged, and the charge applied, was one for infinite liability. It meant liability for scorn, contempt, harassment, violation of dignity, impudence and offence, letting of blood in a slow manner simultaneous with a slow suffocation, augmented by taunting. It was this for which the price was paid, and this was thus the epitome of the price and its outcome.

Thus, the price in this way is being paid to Christ's enemy, Judas, for the interest of His enemies, and not to Himself or His people. Indeed, it is the price for torture and tainting, not only of the victim, but ultimately through a vigorous combination of irony and justice, also of the victorious, whose desecratory triumph indeed ended in the destruction of a now defenceless Jerusalem, and yielded, by report, a consignment of Jews crucified by the Romans who salted the very site of the city, some years later. Sell your Shepherd and inherit his successor. Sell God and inherit the devil! this is part of the liability of the action.

This 30 pieces of silver: it was a very important price, and it paid for much. It is the price for the removal of the Prince of Peace, the disassemblage of the covenantal blessing and protection, the incursion of divine wrath, the annulment of the fountains of mercy in their free flow and the scarification of the nation to come, for an epoch, as in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 32. So do we find from this coverage in Zechariah.

This, the price of betrayal of the Lord, the option of the treacherous, is open to those who love Him not, whose faith is fiasco. In betraying mercy, such action betrays all, leaves nothing and is worthless. Love, however, is stronger than death! (John 10:9,27-28), and His sheep follow HIM! nor can any snatch them. The GOOD Shepherd keeps His sheep.