Sunday, July 25, 2010

Malachi 4

"The Sun of Righteousness shall arise" (vs. 1-6)--The last chapter of the Old Testament points 400 years ahead--"the day is coming." It will be a day of judgment--or at least the beginning of such--for "all who do wickedly." Jesus brought God's final law to mankind, the Word which will judge us all (John 12:48). Those who reject it will suffer the consequences. "But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings" (v. 2), one of the loveliest verses in the Old Testament. They will grow fat on the blessings of God (v. 2), and trample the wicked. God's vindication (which is basically what the Day of Judgment will be) will also be the vindication of His saints. In verse 4, Malachi speaks to his fellow Jews. Until the Messiah comes, "remember the Law of Moses"--be obedient to those precepts which Jehovah gave you. And then, be on the lookout: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet" (v. 5), another reference to John the Baptist (Matt. 11:14). Some Jews were looking for the literal return of Elijah, and some thought Jesus might be him (Matt. 16:14). But Jesus' statement is unambiguous. John's coming (mentioned at least three times in the Old Testament, Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1, and here in Malachi 4:5) was a sign, an indicator that the Messiah was soon to follow. One last time, before the Old Testament revelation closes and 400 years of heavenly silence descended upon mankind, the Lord God points to the coming of the Messiah. When you see "Elijah," then know that "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" is coming. A great day for those who were looking for it, a dreadful day for those who weren't. John will turn (convert) men--all men, fathers and children--or, for those who will not turn to the Lord, there will be a curse upon the land--punishment for rejection. One last time, blessings for obedience, damning for disobedience.

The great prophets have finished their work. There will be no more message from God for 400 years. But He has said enough. Sufficient information has been proffered to point man to the coming Savior. The Old Testament closes with the same theme with which it opened, at least since Genesis 3 and the fall of man: Christ, the Savior, is coming. All through the law, psalms, and prophets God tells whom to look for--here's who will precede Him, here's when He will be born, here's where He will be born, here's His character, His work, His life, His death, His resurrection--and countless other prophesies, the life of the Messiah, in effect, written hundreds of years before He ever arrived. What else could God have done, short of taking away man's free will and forcing him to believe? No, if we miss the Messiah--and the Jews certainly did--it will be in spite of everything God had said and done. The Old Testament closes open-ended, in other words, with a full indication that something is yet to be. And 400 years later, God speaks again, through His Word, Jesus Christ. There will be none other after Him.

I have not even begun, of course, to exhaust the messages found in these erroneously-called "minor" prophets; indeed, at best, I've only touched the tip of the iceberg.  There is wisdom in these books that we will not discover until eternity, and hopefully, over the months and years, as my studies procede, I will reconsider, revise, revamp, and rewrite some of the things I have written in these posts.  Until then, I only pray that the Lord has been pleased with my efforts, that I have never strayed too far from the truth, and that the readers, now and in the future, will be blessed by my comments.  Readers will be far more blessed, however, by meditating directly on the words of the Holy Spirit through these great men, men "of whom the world was not worthy."  To God, His Son, and His Spirit be all the glory.

Malachi 3

"Behold, He is coming" (vs. 1-5)--The last two chapters of the Old Testament both speak of the coming Messiah. Verse 1 tells us of the "messenger" who "will prepare the way before Me." Jesus tells us plainly in Matthew 11:10 that this is John the Baptist. About 300 years before Malachi, Isaiah had spoken of the work of John in leading the way to Jesus (Isaiah 40:3). So the way to the Messiah is clearly marked. It isn't God's fault if people missed it.

The Christ is "the Messenger of the covenant" (v. 1). This "covenant" could refer either to the one in Genesis 3:15 where God promised all of mankind a Redeemer, or it could be the covenant with the Jews, which had the same purpose--to bring the Savior into the world. Either way, "Behold, He is coming." Yet, He is so righteous and holy that we have no right to stand in His presence. "Who can endure the day of His coming?" (v. 2). Only those who accept Him by faith. He will cleanse and purify His people. Notice that Malachi writes of the "sons of Levi" (v. 3) and "Judah and Jerusalem" in verse 4 within a context that is definitely referring to Jesus. This helps us understand the spiritual nature of prophecy; these references are not literal. All Christians are priests (I Peter 2:9--"sons of Levi"), and Judah and Jerusalem represent the people of God in the new dispensation. God will accept our worship (v. 4), and come in judgment against all kinds of wicked people "because they do not fear Me" (v. 5). The glorious coming of Messiah brings blessings to the righteous and cursings upon the disobedient.

"Will a man rob God?" (vs. 6-12)--God's nature does not change, nor does His purpose for mankind. Even since the fall of man, God planned to bring a Savior into the world and that intention never wavered. And even though the Jews were certainly deserving of obliteration, "you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob" (v. 6), because God had a higher purpose, i.e., to use those people to bring the Savior into the world. Thus, despite the fact that "from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them" (v. 7), God spared them, and offered to "return" to them if they would "return to Me" (v. 7). However, they didn't know the way: "But you said, 'In what way shall we return?'" (v. 7). Well, one way was to quit robbing God. "But how have we done this?" they asked. "In tithes and offerings," the Lord responded (v. 8). They had been cheating Him of what was rightfully His, and the "whole nation" was "cursed with a curse" (v. 9). Verse 10 beautifully announces the way to "return": "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." God can shower us with such blessings, so many that we won't know what to do with them all. If Judah would only do as He asked, their sustenance would not be stolen nor would it fail (v. 11), and all the nations around them would call them blessed because of their abundance (v. 12). All of this, though, conditioned upon obedience and submission.

"It is useless to serve God" (vs. 13-18)--People who close their eyes cannot see the blessings God pours out upon us, and thus argue that serving God has no value. If we look only at this world, then the probability is that we will, indeed, see and understand very little of God and His righteous purposes. The Jews of Malachi's day had fallen into that mindset. They said, "It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance?" (v. 14). Well, they hadn't kept His ordinance so they had never really put themselves into a position where He could favor them as He had promised. Yet, verse 15 tells of their worldly view: "So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they even tempt God and go free." As we look at this world, who is it whom man exalts? The rich, the powerful--the "proud" are "blessed," the wicked are "raised up"; they seem to get away with all sorts of sins--they tempt God and aren't punished for it. Yes, that is the way things seem to be. But God's people stay together. Verse 16 is beautiful: "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name" (KJV). The eyes of the truly wise are on the Lord, and they are in His "book of remembrance." That's where we want to be when this brief life is over. His people belong to Him, will have great spiritual riches ("jewels," v. 17), will be spared His judgment, (v. 17), and know what is right and wrong, who serves God and who doesn't (v. 18). The wicked know their own, as do the righteous.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Malachi 2

A message to the priests (vs. 1-9)--This is an old story in the Old Testament, and it will be a major theme in Jesus' day: the failure of the religious leaders to provide proper direction for God's people. Now again, in the last book of the Old Testament, "O priests, this commandment is for you" (v. 1). The Lord would send a curse upon them "If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart" (v. 2). Verse 3 is pretty plain and graphic: Jehovah "will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts." That describes fairly clearly what the Lord thought of their religious service. The Lord had made a covenant with the tribe of Levi; they were the priestly tribe. The high praise given to that tribe in verses 5 and 6 might have reference to the fact that only the Levites stood with Moses on the matter of the golden calf (Exodus 32). For the most part, as noted at the beginning of the paragraph, the priests of the old law came in for their share of censure down through the centuries. But they did have a special calling from the Lord and a high responsibility: "For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts" (v. 7). But, "you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi" (v. 8). Therefore, they were contemptible to the people. When the "godly" act in ungodly ways, even an unrighteous people are repulsed. Especially when "partiality in the law" is shown (v. 9).

The covenant profaned (vs. 10-12)--All of this had led to a profaning of the covenant (vs. 10-11). Interestingly, verse 10 refers to God as the Jews' "Father," a concept that is found very infrequently in the Old Testament, but dominates the relationship between God and His people in the New. Part of that might be the Roman concept of paterfamilias where the father of the family had total control over all in that family, was to be revered and reverenced unfailingly, yet was to always have a tender love and concern for those under his care. The people in Christ's day would understand such a concept; the Jews didn't have the same sort of relationship with their earthly fathers, or at least didn't view them in the same mold. In verse 11 of Malachi 2, the prophet refers to the people marrying "the daughter of a foreign god." Ezra complained about that at least a generation earlier (Ezra 9 and 10), and the people of his day apparently made some reformation of the condition. But it evidently didn't last. The Lord would "cut off" any man "from the tents of Jacob" who did this, especially if he had the unmitigated gall to bring "an offering to the Lord of hosts" (v. 12).
Hypocrisy (vs. 13-17)--While the theme of marriage continues through the rest of the chapter ("For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce," v. 16), the major idea of this section of Malachi is rampant hypocrisy. “You cover the altar of the LORD with tears” (v. 13). “Crocodile tears” we call them. The prophet, since the subject of marriage had already come up, uses that again as an example of their hypocrisy. They showed such "contrition" in their offerings to God, but "the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant" (v. 14). Practicing religious ceremonies is utterly vain unless accompanied by a righteous life; that theme also saturates the message of the prophets, as we have seen time and again in this study. And part of that righteous life means at home. Women were especially vulnerable in ancient times, for there was no government welfare system. If they lost their husband, then they could be in dire straits, which is why we read frequently about God's anger over the mistreatment of widows. Her son(s) and family could possible take care of her, but that wasn't always possible, either. So this hatred of divorce by God comes from at least three sources: "Did He not make them one..." (v. 15), and from the beginning, God intended for there to be one man/one woman. He tolerated other arrangements in pre-Christian age, but Jesus tells us that such was not what God planned, and now we must return to the original purpose (Matt. 19:1-9). A second reason God hates divorce (at least as this context mentions) is "He seeks godly offspring" (v. 15). Marrying heathen women as the Jews were doing would very often produce an unfaithful seed. Read what happened when such took place in Genesis 6. The third reason was the one I mentioned earlier--the predicament a divorced woman could find herself in without a husband to provide for her. Women weren't nearly as independent in the ancient world as they are today; and, not surprisingly, divorce was far less common. The hypocrisy of Malachi's day was summed up in verse 17 where the people had "wearied" the Lord by saying "'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them,' or, 'Where is the God of justice?'" If we can convince ourselves that evil is good, or that God's silence at our sins means He doesn't care or won't punish, then our rationalization for blatant hypocrisy is complete.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Malachi--Introduction and Chapter One

Introduction to Malachi--As with many of these "minor" prophets, we know nothing of this man beyond what is in his book. And that really tells us nothing, not even who his father was. Some think he might have been a contemporary of Nehemiah, and that's possible if Malachi was born early enough and Nehemiah lived long enough. Regardless, this book is no doubt the last written in the Old Testament, probably between 420 and 400 B. C. It closes with a promise of a better day, and that's something we will look at when we get to chapter 4. All of these prophets we've studied so far wrote books that were shorter than Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, but there was nothing "minor" about their work.

Chapter One

Jacob exalted over Esau (vs. 1-5)--Malachi had a unique way of writing, sort of a "call and answer" approach. After simply stating in verse 1 that the word of the Lord came to him, the prophet has Jehovah saying, "I have loved you," but the people responding "In what way have You loved us?" (v. 2). This is obviously a literary device, and one which Malachi uses frequently in the prophecy. It is shocking for Israel to ask God how He had loved them, but that was the general disposition of the people of Malachi's day. The Lord responded with a simple example: He chose (the younger) Jacob over (the older) Esau, and sorely punished the descendants of the latter (Jacob's offspring were every bit as worthy of punishment but had been spared the fate of their cousins). The "Jacob I have loved, but Esay I have hated" (vs. 2-3) must be understood in a comparative sense. God doesn't hate anyone; He simply chose Israel for His purposes. The Edomites thought they would be able to rebound (v. 4), but whatever they built, "I will thrown down" (v. 4). Israel would then know that they should magnify Jehovah (v. 5). The point of this section is to remind Israel of all that God had done for them--and no one else, not even their nearest kinsmen. How could they say that He didn't love them? It gets worse, if possible.

"In what way have we despised Your name?" (vs. 6-14)--God is due every bit of respect that man can give him--the respect a son owes his father and a master his servant. Well, God is worthy of more than that, but it was a suitable comparison at the moment (v. 6). Yet, "where is My reverence?" (v. 6). I wonder if the Lord isn't asking that same question of many of His people today. He spoke those words directly "to you priests who despise My name." Yet, they asked, "In what way have we despised Your name?" They weren't aware of having done so. But the Lord responded that when they offered inferior, unfit sacrifices to Him, such was "despising" His name. A point worth considering. If our worship today is not what it ought to be, then does the Lord consider us as "despising" His name?

The problem with Israel here was simple apathy in religious service. They didn't go back into idol worship; they had learned that lesson from Babylonian captivity. But now, by Malachi's day, they cared so little for their religion, that they were offering "the blind as a sacrifice...the lame and sick" (v. 8). "Is it not evil?' Indeed, it was. "Go offer it to the governor of Persia and see if he'll accept it," (v. 8, paraphrased). If it wasn't good enough for a pagan bureaucrat, then it certainly wasn't good enough for the God of heaven and earth. The one escape was the one He had always offered them: "But now entreat God's favor, that He may be gracious to us" (v. 9). In verse 10 we learn, however, that there was not even one honest priest among them, who would do the most simple task ("shut the doors" of the temple) without getting paid for it. The sacrifices of such people were vain. Better no sacrifices than vain ones (see Isaiah 1). The Gentiles, the pagan, heathen nations who did not have God's written law, would someday exalt the name of the Lord (v. 11), but Israel profaned His name (v. 12) with their useless, tawdry sacrifices. Worship was wearisome to them; they gave God the leftovers (v. 13). ”Should I accept this from your hand?" No, there would be a curse upon such people, "For I am a great King," (v. 14), and no monarch would accept this kind of service at the hands of his people. A great chapter in which we learn the crucial lesson that improper, listless worship is despising and profaning the Lord and His name.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Zechariah 14

The attack on Jerusalem (vs. 1-2)--This chapter does not appear to be a continuation of the preceding one, and identifying its exact meaning is not easy. It appears to be Messianic (v. 8), but again caution should be used in interpreting this section. I don't believe the Roman destruction of 70 A.D. is meant; verse 2 speaks of "all nations" gathered against Jerusalem. That could refer to the Roman Empire, but probably not in this case. If this chapter is Messianic, as I believe it to be, then the material here is figurative. God's people will come under serious attack. "Half the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city" (v. 2); Satan surely wins some battles in the spiritual warfare we fight.  The event described here has never happened, literally, to Jerusalem after the return from Babylonian captivity. Some commentators thus see the events of this chapter as yet future from our day, but I'm not inclined that way. Let's just consider it as applying to the church, and given verse 8, I think that's the best view.

The Lord attacks in return (vs. 3-7)--While trials often come to the people of God, He never leaves them totally in the hands of their enemies. He counter-attacks (v. 3), and provides a way of refuge and escape for His people (v. 4). The splitting of the Mount of Olives (v. 4) would be a spectacular event, if literal; but I believe it figurative--the Lord opens a door of escape for His saints. There will be great darkness (v. 6), but also great light (v. 7; judgment and mercy?). But He will be with His people (v. 5).

The living waters (vs. 8-11)--Five times in this chapter we read that significant phrase "in that day," and one of those is verse 8: "And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur." This is a pretty good description of the "living water" Jesus provides (John 4:10). Notice it flows in both directions (everywhere) and "in both summer and winter" (all the time). The gospel is for all mankind and it will be offered until the Lord returns again. "And the LORD shall be King over all the earth" (v. 9)--"King of kings and Lord of lords" (I Tim. 6:15). The land shall be fertile (v. 10, manifold blessings for His people), and "Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited" (v. 11)--Jehovah will guard His own. Again, spiritually this is a perfect picture of the church; literally, it has never happened.

Plague upon the enemies of God (vs. 12-19)--Verse 12 has a gruesome picture of what happens to those who fight against His people: "Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths." Not wise to be found on the opposing side in a war against Jehovah! There will be great panic (v. 13), God's people will fight together and obtain great booty (v. 14). The plague will strike even the animals of the enemies (v. 15). There will be complete and utter destruction for those who combat God's plan. Those who are left will submit to Jehovah (v. 16), and will come from everywhere to worship Him. If they do not, they will not be blessed (v. 17) and indeed, will continue to be plagued (vs. 18-19). The references (vs. 16 and 18) to the Feast of Tabernacles must be figurative, because it would require a restoration of the Law of Moses for that feast to actually be held again. One of the major losses of the Jews at the Roman destruction of 70 A.D. was all their genealogical records; no Jew today can tell you which tribe he is from, and the mixture is probably so great that there exists no pure line any more back to the original tribes. Thus, restoration of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe that would officiate at the Feast of Tabernacles, is impossible. Therefore, we have a reference to the worship of God in present times.

"Holiness to the Lord" (vs. 20-21)--"In that day" there will be a holiness like never seen before. All of God's people are holy (I Peter 2:5), and that is represented here as "every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the Lord" (v. 21). The pots in the houses of the people of God are every bit as sanctified as those in the Lord's house. This isn't profaning God's house by any means; it simply indicates the breakdown of the old law by the new, where everyone is a priest (I Peter 2:9). "In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts" (v. 21). Nothing but purity "in that day." There are, of course, "impure" people in the church who masquerade as true saints, but the Lord knows who they are and knows they are not His.  This whole section does appear to fit the church far better than anything Jerusalem has ever had or could have without miracles of an astonishing nature. And, we would ask, since eternal salvation can be found, for all, Jew and Gentile alike, in Christ Jesus, what would be the purpose of it all?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Zechariah 13

The fountain for sin and uncleanness (v. 1)--This beautiful verse speaks for itself:  "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness."  I will only add that this is obviously a continuation from the previous chapter because of the statement "in that day."

The cutting off of idols and the silencing of false teachers (vs. 2-6)--The first verse, as noted in chapter 12, applies to the church age.  Verse 2 also says "in that day" so we are obviously still referring to the New Testament dispensation.  Idols will be cut off--God's true people (Christians) will worship only Him (v. 2), and false teachers will either be killed (by their own parents who love the Lord more than they do error), or they will be ashamed, and take up another profession (vs. 3-5).  Even his friends will scourge him (v. 6).  Do not take that literally; he is speaking only of the purity of God's true church. There is no place for idolatry or false doctrine in the kingdom of God. 

"My Fellow" (vs. 7-9)--God then speaks of the one Who is "My Shepherd" and "My Fellow" (or "Companion," NKJV).  This is the Christ, of course.  He will be struck "and the sheep will be scattered" (v. 7).  Matthew has Jesus quoting this verse in Matthew 26:31.   But the Lord will take care of His own:  "And I will turn mine hand upon the little ones" (v. 7).  The NKJV's "against the little ones" is surely wrong here.  Tragically, only a small number (represented in verse as "one-third" of the land will "be left therein"--only a few will be saved.  The Lord will refine them and they will be His people and He their God:  "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God" (v. 9).  The trials will be difficult, but the victory will be ours if we remain faithful.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Zechariah 12

Salvation for spiritual Israel (vs. 1-9)—Zechariah begins a new section here, and the next two chapters are much easier. They refer to the Messianic age; of this there can be no doubt, for verse 10 applies to Jesus, John 19:37 being our witness. And since six times in this chapter Zechariah says “in that day” (and three more times in chapter 13), it is conclusive that this material applies, spiritually, to the third dispensation, the church age. Verse 1 establishes the authority of the message: “Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.” This declaration is from the all-powerful Creator of heaven, earth, and man. Jerusalem (the city of God, in this case, the church) will be protected. The “surrounding peoples” will “lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem” (v. 2), but “in that day I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples,” and they will be cut to pieces (v. 3). Verse 4 again reiterates “in that day,” as do verses 6, 8, 9, 11, 13:1, 2, and 4. And, once more, 12:10 (as well as 13:1 and 7) point directly to the Messiah. So many commentators miss that in their desire to have an earthly kingdom or some kind of future restoration of the Jews. The Lord only has to say something once for it to be valid, but in this instance, He says it nine times. It isn’t His fault if we miss the point. To conclude this section, our enemies will be confused in their battle (v. 4), our leaders will find their strength “in the Lord of hosts, their God,” (v. 5), and they shall “devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left” (v. 6). “Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place—Jerusalem” (v. 6). The church, the holy habitation of God, will not be moved. Verses 7 through 9 have basically the same message. The Lord will “save the tents of Judah” and we will all be equal before Him (v. 7). He will defend us, even “the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David” (v. 8, "for he who is least among you all will be great," Luke 9:48), and “in that day” those who “come against” His people will be destroyed (v. 9).

The spirit of grace (vs. 10-14)—All of this will be because of “Me whom they pierced” (v. 10). Zechariah (God) beautifully writes, “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication” (v. 10). Finally, the grace that we need has arrived. And not just in sprinkles; He will “pour” it on us. For the people of God, while the death of Christ is a wondrous thing, it is also a cause for mourning: “Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (v. 10). There would have been no cross without our sins. “Blessed are they that mourn” (Matt. 5:4). Hadadrimmon was in the valley of Megiddo and the location where the good king Josiah, probably the second greatest king Israel ever had, was killed in battle by the Egyptians (II Chron. 35:22-25). It was a place of mourning (figurative in the case of Zechariah 12:11). He concludes the chapter by picturing a universal mourning—the house of David (the king), the house of Levi (the priesthood), and “the family of Shimei” (vs. 12-13), and “all the families that remain” (v. 14). All of God’s people will mourn, “by themselves,” (v. 14), i.e., for their own sins. Regarding Shimei, there are 11 men in the Old Testament by that name. The two most famous were a grandson of Levi (by Gershon), and the man who cursed David when he was fleeing from Absalom (II Sam. 16:5-13). Not a good idea, and he came humbly to David, begging for pardon when the rebellion was over and the king was restored to his throne. David graciously forgave him, but Solomon had him executed. I write all that to say it is unclear which Shimei is meant, probably the grandson of Levi. That seems to be the consensus, thus “the highest and lowest of the priestly order” (as one commentator says) are mentioned.

Chapter 13 will continue this, the very first words being “in that day.”

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Zechariah 11

Punishment upon Jerusalem (vs. 1-3)—This is an exceedingly difficult chapter, but many commentators see this as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. because of the rejection of the Messiah, Who is mentioned in this chapter. If we accept this interpretation—and it’s not a bad one, though I won’t be dogmatic about it and will follow it until I find something better—then the first three verses, in general, predict that destruction. “Lebanon” (v. 1) refers to the temple (“Open your doors”); the famous cedars of Lebanon were used to construct the temple that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. So there is wailing in all parts of Judea, from Bashan (v. 2) to the Jordan (v. 3). “There is the sound of wailing shepherds! For their glory is in ruins” (v. 3). This is perhaps a reference to the Jewish leaders who based so much of their power and authority on their attachment to a temple that would eventually lie in ruins.

The cause of the destruction just foretold (vs. 4-17)—And it is because of the rejection of the Messiah, of course. Jesus will explain this thoroughly, and clearly, in Matthew 24. Zechariah is a little more obscure. The Jewish “flock” will be fed “for slaughter” by the Roman armies (v. 4). The owners (religious leaders) didn’t care and “feel no guilt” (v. 5); they were rich and had no pity (v. 5). The Lord would have no pity, either, on “the inhabitants of the land” (v. 6). They would be given over to internal feuds and eventually the Roman armies.

Perhaps Zechariah (“I fed the flock for slaughter”) here enacts some of what the Lord is saying here (v. 7). He took two staffs, one called Beauty, representing the Jews’ peculiar excellency above the other nations (at least it was so intended by God), and the other called Bands, implying a bond of brotherhood among the Jewish people. The three shepherds who were “cut off (dismissed, NKJV)…in one month” (v. 8) are impossible to identify; the commentators are all over the lot on it, and I won’t speculate. Bottom line is, the Jewish leaders would no longer be the shepherds. Destruction is vividly portrayed (v. 9), and the staff, Beauty, was broken in two (v. 10), “that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples (Jews).” “It was broken on that day” (v. 11). If this chapter does refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, then this statement implies that God did allow a 40-year “probationary” period for the Jews after the death of Christ, the event which effectively ended the Law of Moses. Yet, until the gospel had been preached “in all the world” (Matt. 24:14, follow this link for an explanation: Matt. 24:14), the Jews were allowed some liberties to continue practicing their law. This would explain Paul’s actions in Acts 21. I only speculate here, for, once again, Zechariah is quite murky in his material. Verse 11 tells us, too, that “the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD.” The Jewish Christian remnant understood what the destruction of Jerusalem was all about. Verse 12 and 13 refer to the Messiah and His betrayal—“give me my wages,” i.e., honor Me as the Messiah, or “if not, refrain.” He was betrayed, of course, for thirty pieces of silver which eventually went to purchase a potter’s field, as Zechariah here predicts. Then the other staff, Bands, was broken, destroying—or perhaps a better word would be “scattering”—Judah and Israel, something that indeed did happen after the Roman destruction.

Zechariah is then commanded (v. 15) to take up “the implements of a foolish shepherd,” whatever they might be. This represents a “shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces” (v. 16). The identity of this fellow is anybody’s guess. Some see the “Antichrist” here, but that’s ridiculous. If we follow the “destruction by Rome in 70 A.D.” theory, then we could look at the Jewish leadership as a whole as perhaps being meant. They were certainly “worthless” (v. 17) and severely wounded.

Again, I counsel extreme caution in these latter chapters of Zechariah. There is doubtless Messianic material here, but putting it all together concisely and coherently is far from easy. I do believe the above is the best explanation for this chapter. However, I reserve the right to amend upon future study.