“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hooves. Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock. May the sword strike his arm and his right eye. Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded.'”
– Zechariah 11:15–17
So just to give a little context behind what we just read in the first part of this chapter, Zechariah does what we often see a prophet do in the Old Testament and he acts out God’s word as a picture of what God is saying to his people. And specifically, Zechariah 11:15–17 acts out the role of a shepherd who is leading God’s people for their good, favor, and union, and grace, and mercy, and the goodness of God. And then as Zechariah acts this out, we see a picture of the people being shepherded as the sheep of God, rejecting the good shepherd, turning against him and wanting nothing to do with him, refusing him, rebelling against him.
Running to the Safety of God’s Presence
Rather than running away from God, we ought to run towards Him trusting Him as our good shepherd.
“And then the Lord said to me,” so that’s where we picked up in verse 15, “‘Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, doesn’t seek the young, doesn’t heal the maimed, doesn’t nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hooves.'” Basically, a picture of a horrible, evil, hurtful shepherd. And it’s a picture of what happens when people turned from the good shepherd to other shepherds in this world, turned from the good leadership of God in our lives to follow the leadership of others in this world. And in Zechariah 11:15–17, God is saying to his people, “Don’t do it.”
Zechariah 11:15–17 Warns of the Dangers of Running from God’s Direction
The consequences of turning aside from God as shepherd are never good. And I kept reading all the way down to verse 17 because it’s a serious picture of a shepherd being raised up and devouring the flesh of God’s people. But then verse 17 ends this part of Zechariah’s prophecy with a promise from God that that will not be the end of the story, that he will not ultimately let his people be led by a worthless shepherd. He will bring his judgment upon worthless shepherds, which is part of the indictment of leaders among God’s people in the Old Testament, that they had not shepherded his people well.
All of this to come to your life and my life today. As we pray, I just want to encourage you even as I encourage my own heart, look to God today as shepherd, as the good shepherd, as the one who alone is wise enough to lead us. Don’t look to foolish shepherds, namely ourselves, other people in this world, other ideologies in this world, other pursuits in this world. Look to God alone for the leadership of your life. Let your eyes be fixed on him all day today, all day tomorrow, as the good shepherd who promises to nourish you, lead you, guide you, provide for you, give you everything you need. You can trust God as the shepherd of your life.
Zechariah 11:15–17 Praises the Lord God as Our Shepherd
So God, we praise you in a Psalm 23 kind of way. The Lord is our shepherd. We shall not want. We praise you for your goodness, for your grace, for your good leadership in our lives. Jesus, in a John chapter 10, verse 10 kind of way, we praise you as the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus, we praise you for laying down your life to forgive us of our sins. To reconcile us to relationship with God. The Lord is the good shepherd of our lives, so we look to you today. Lead us. Guide us. Direct our thoughts, our desires, our words, our decisions, everything we do.
So God, we pray that you would help us to keep our eyes fixed on you in every moment as our shepherd, as the Lord and leader of our lives. And we trust you will make us lie down in green pastures. You will lead us beside still waters. God, You will restore our soul. You will lead and guide us in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. Do that today, we pray, oh God. Jesus, lead us in paths of righteousness. We pray today, for your name’s sake. For your glory as the good shepherd in our lives, in the world around us. We pray this, oh God, in the name of Jesus, our good shepherd. Amen.