Awake

                “”Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the man who is close to me!”  Declares the LORD Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn My hand against the little ones.  In the whole land,” declares the LORD, “two thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one third will be left in it.  This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.  They will call on My Name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are My people.” And they will say, “The LORD is our God.””

                                                                                                                                                                Zechariah 13:7-9

                Right in the middle of the final oracle in the book of Zechariah we find this little poetic passage which refocuses our attention upon the central theme of this wonderful prophetic book.  The book is concerned with the promise of God which is to act on behalf of His people through one whom He calls the Good Shepherd in order to redeem them by establishing a new blood covenant.  Israel is facing a crisis in leadership; the shepherds have failed to lead God’s people into godliness therefore God Himself will intervene on their behalf.  This text brings us into an awe inspiring encounter with the tremendous promises that the LORD has made to us in His Word.  What is required is that we stop and meditate upon God’s Word to us here.

                Verse seven contains two commands from God as He speaks to the sword of Divine Judgement.  The LORD commands that the sword awaken and then that it strike the shepherd, presumably killing Him.  What Zechariah is confronting us with here is that whatever will happen to the Good Shepherd it will be a direct result of God’s initiative in bringing judgement upon a people ruined by their sin.  It will not be an accident or an event out of the control of God.  Zechariah tells us that it will be the direct response of God’s Word.  He will speak the word of judgement and the sword will fall upon the Good Shepherd.  There is more here as well for us to meditate upon.  The sword will fall upon “My Shepherd.”  It is the shepherd who belongs to God that Zechariah is referring to here.  The definition is taken further as the Prophet writes, “against the man who is close to me.”  More literally the word that is used here refers to the man who is my fellow, one who participates in the nature of the poetic speaker, or God Himself.  David Baron explores this in his commentary on the book of Zechariah.

                “The unique and peculiar relationship between this “Shepherd” and Jehovah is fully brought out in the words which follow: “the man that is my fellow.”  The word (‘amith) is found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible only in Leviticus.  It seems to be a substantive, and denotes “fellowship,” “neighbourship,” in the abstract.  But the only other place in the Hebrew Bible where this word is found, namely, in Leviticus, it is used only as the synonym of (“brother”), in the concrete sense of the nearest one.  The two words (“man”) and (“My fellow”) must therefore be regarded as apposites, and have been properly so rendered in the English Bible…..”

                “No Owner of a flock, or lord of a flock, would call a hired or purchased shepherd his ‘amith.  And so God would not apply this epithet to any godly or ungodly man whom He might have appointed shepherd over a nation.  The idea of nearest one (or fellow) involves not only similarity in vocation, but community of physical or spiritual descent, according to which he whom God calls His neighbour cannot be a mere man, but can only be one who participates in the Divine nature, or is essentially Divine.  The shepherd of Jehovah, whom the sword is to smite, is therefore no other than the Messiah, who is also identified with Jehovah in chapter 12:10; or the Good Shepherd, who says of Himself, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).” (Baron, David, The Visions and Prophesies of Zechariah, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1975, p. 476-477)

                What a wonderful prophetic word.  Zechariah gives us much to meditate upon here.  The promise of God is that one will come who will share in the Divine nature and who will be struck down by the express plan of God that he might be the refiner of his people so that they will be brought into the covenant relationship with God through him.  For this reason Jesus point to this Scripture as being fulfilled in the scandal of the Cross.

                “Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”  But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”  (Matthew 26:31-32)

                The word for “fall away” used here is to be caused to stumble, to be offended, or shocked, by what they have observed.  That God would deliberately afflict His only begotten Son with our punishment so that we could be redeemed in Him seems offensive to us.  In reality however we find here the power of God for our salvation revealed here.  For this we praise God!