“Thirty Pieces Of Silver”
Surpassingly lovely have been the scenes briefly depicted in the preceding chapters. But the glory there promised is in abeyance during the present interval because of the rejection of the One upon whom it all depends. So we now have a sorrowful account of the scornful refusal of the Good Shepherd and the acceptance instead of the Anti-shepherd, who seeks only his own exaltation and cares not for the ruin and scattering of Jehovah’s flock.
The two opening verses sound an alarm, and speak of woe and disaster. “Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars. Howl, O fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the goodly ones are laid waste: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the strong forest is come down” (R.V.). It is the solemn announcement of wrath upon the land and people because of the tragedy of the cross. Fire, in Scripture, speaks of God’s holiness exerted in the judgment of what is opposed thereto. Against Judah it has been fiercely burning for centuries since the day when they cried, as to the Lord Jesus, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” He had come in grace as the Shepherd of Israel to gather together and feed the poor of the flock; but though He came unto His own, His own received Him not; so desolation and dispersion ensued. The under-shepherds might well cry out in dismay, for they themselves had led the revolt against Him whose love would have been as a rod and staff in the hour of need. Their glory is spoiled, and the pride of Jordan likewise. No barrier any longer hindered the coming in of the lions of the wilderness, seeking to prey upon the flock of slaughter (ver. 3).
Zechariah is directed to act the part of the shepherd. He is to feed the flock whose buyers slay them and hold themselves guiltless. Unpitied by their own shepherds, they were appointed to death; but a remnant are distinguished, even the poor of the flock aforementioned (vers. 4-7).
In obedience to the command given, the prophet took two symbolic staves, and fed the flock. One staff was called Beauty; the other, Bands, or, Concord. They spoke of the pastoral care Israel is yet to know, when, with the beauty of the Lord her God upon her, she shall dwell in unity and concord as one nation in the land covenanted to Abraham. Then she will sing with joy, “Jehovah is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He causeth me to lie down in pastures of tender grass: by waters of rest He leadeth me.”
All this they might now be in the happy enjoyment of had there been but ears to hear and a heart to understand when He who spake as never man spake cried, yearningly, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But they turned a deaf ear and hardened their hearts to the voice of loving entreaty; so they must know to the full the bitterness of forsaking the only One who could meet their need, both nationally and spiritually. So Zechariah (in vision, I take it) cuts off the hireling shepherds, who loathed him, and whom he loathed, because of their unprincipled conduct. Three in one month are judged. But there is no recognition, on the part of the flock, of his tender care; so he gives them up too, that desolation and cutting-off, both by their enemies and internecine strife, may be their portion (vers. 7-9).
As signifying the breaking of Jehovah’s covenant, which was forfeited by their sin, he destroyed the staff called Beauty-for all their loveliness was gone and they were unclean in His sight. But still a feeble remnant is distinguished, for God has ever preserved an election of grace; and so we read, “The poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord” (vers. 10, 11).
Then, impersonating Messiah in a manner most striking, he said to them, “If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear.” They need no time to consider. All is settled in their minds. His rejection is fully determined upon before he speaks. At once they weigh for his price “thirty pieces of silver”; the very sum for which Judas afterwards sold the true Shepherd of Israel (ver. 12).
Observe, it was not merely the prophet who was estimated at this sum; but Jehovah speaks, saying, “Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prized at of them.” By reference to Exodus 21:32 the irony of this expression, “a goodly price,” becomes clearly manifest. Thirty pieces of silver was the value the law set on a slave who had been gored and slain by an ox. Such was the value man put upon Him who had been acquired as a bondman from His youth, See chap. 13:5, 6, and notes.
The money was cast to the potter in the house of the Lord; and the other staff, Unity, or Concord, was broken, that it might display the breach between Judah and Israel (vers. 13,14).
All this we see fulfilled to the letter in the case of the Lord Jesus. Sold for thirty pieces of silver, the wretched betrayer cast down the money in the house of the Lord; but, in blind obedience to the Word, which they seemed too dull to comprehend the import of, the chief priests gave it to the potter as the purchase-price of a field to bury strangers in. Such a potter’s field, an Aceldama of wrath, has Palestine been ever since.38
But ere His rejection, our Lord said to the Jews, “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43). He spoke, undoubtedly, of the wilful king, the personal Antichrist of the last days, who will be received by the Jews as the Messiah when he comes with all power and signs and lying wonders. This dreadful person, Zechariah is next called upon to set forth. He is directed by the Lord to take the instruments of a foolish shepherd and impersonate one who is to be raised up in the land, in whom Judah will vainly hope for deliverance. Unmarked by compassion for the flock, he will seek only his own ends, and “he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their hoofs in pieces.” Upon this impious wretch the judgment of indignant heaven is to descend; so we read, “Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened” (vers. 15-17). His final doom is given in Rev. 19, where we see the false prophet cast alive into the lake of fire.
In our days of great achievement and marvelous advancement on all lines, we hear much of the coming man, the fully-developed, cultivated man of the twentieth century, upon which we have so recently entered. The expression refers, of course, to the vaunted progress of the race, not to any solitary individual; but it may well remind us of the two coming men spoken of in this chapter, and elsewhere in the book of God, though both are alike forgotten by people generally. God has His coming Man-the Man Christ Jesus. In speaking so of Him, the dignity of His Person should not be lost sight of. He is indeed declared to be “God over all, blessed forever” (Romans 9:5). Long before this century has run its course, He will perhaps have returned in glory to this world, which, having slain Him when He was here before, turned, Cain-like, to building cities, and making advancement in the arts and sciences, quite forgetful of the blood shed on Calvary’s cross, which cries still unto God from the ground. (Compare Genesis 4:8-22). It is not as often insisted on as it should be that there are two aspects in which the death of Christ is brought before us in the Bible, with widely different results. Viewed as His offering Himself a sacrifice to God for sin and sins, and suffering at the hand of God for guilt not His own, the result is free salvation and complete justification for all who believe in Him. On the other hand, viewed as the One rejected of earth, and suffering from the hands of wicked men, the result is dire and unmixed judgment on the ordered system of things called the world, that cast Him out. (These two aspects and results are especially presented to us in Psalms 22 and 69). When He returns the second time, it will be “without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28), for all who have trusted Him as their Saviour, who will be “in the twinkling of an eye” changed and caught up together in the clouds to meet Him in the air (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17); but He will shortly after be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, to take vengeance on all who have rejected His grace (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
He is to be judge of both living and dead (2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5). The living who have spurned His proffered mercy He will judge at His appearing to institute the kingdom long promised by the prophets (Revelation 20:1-6; Isa. 32, 63, etc.). This is the judgment of the “sheep and goats” depicted in Matt. 25, and is premillennial. The wicked dead will be judged by Him when He sits on the Great White Throne, at the close of the ages of time.
Of the day or hour of His return no man knows, or can know. Computations are useless. “In such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” It behooves all, then, to be ready to meet the Coming Man, and not be ashamed before Him.
There is only one way by which any one born in sin and a transgressor by practice can be ready to face Him, the Holy and the True. All who trust Him are instantly cleansed from every sin by His precious blood. His work, finished when He was here before, is of such infinite value, and so thoroughly met all the claims of God’s holiness, that all who believe are “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12). If the reader has rested his soul upon Him as his Saviour, he will be ready to meet Him, and will be rapt away to be forever with Himself, if spared till He comes.
But Satan also has his “coming man,” of whom our Lord spoke, as we have seen, in John 5:43. In the interval between the rapture of the Church and the appearing in glory of the Saviour, this monster of infamy, in himself a very incarnation of the devil, will arise to dazzle the eyes of the world by his unhallowed brilliancy and power. He will be Satan’s masterpiece of deception, the false Christ, who will have sway over the minds and consciences of those who reject the love of the truth.
He is called “the son of perdition,” linking him in character with that awful apostate who sold his Master for “thirty pieces of silver.”
Think of men, men of greatest culture and erudition, bowing down before this vile creature, and owning him as their Lord! He is well called a “beast” in Revelation 13:11, though in appearance he is the counterfeit of the Lamb of God; but his speech is that of the dragon, “that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan.”
This is the coming man of the earth, as the Lord Jesus is the Coming Man from heaven.
Which, dear reader, will have your heart and your allegiance? If you are left behind unsaved at the Lord’s coming, you will worship Antichrist, for God will send them strong delusion, to those who obeyed not the truth, that they may believe the lie of “the man of sin,” to their eternal condemnation (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).
May it be yours then, if still out of Christ, to “turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven.” Then your portion will be with that blessed Man in glory forever. If you turn from Him, awful must be your doom, with “the man of the earth,” yea, and all the lost, in the lake of fire for eternity.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Zechariah 11". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany