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Shepherd Struck, Sheep Scattered (Zechariah 13:2-9)

Listen: https://tpc.simplecast.com/episodes/zechariah-13-2-9-veerman

Zechariah 13:2-9

Rev. Erik Veerman

7/31/2022

Shepherd Struck, Sheep Scattered

We are down to 3 sermons left for Zechariah - today is chapter 13 and then 2 sermons for chapter 14. Next Sunday, however, pastor Chuck will be preaching on the parable of the persistent widow. Amy and I and our family will be on vacation for a couple of weeks. On Sunday, August 14th, Coleman will be preaching on the first half of Zechariah 14. As you know, that is also the day of our first officer elections. So, we are planning to return from vacation the day before so that we can be here for that.

Last week we made it through verse 1 of Zechariah chapter 13. But I’ll re-read that verse since it also relates to the rest of chapter 13.

You can find Zechariah 13 on page 950 in the pew Bibles.

Please stand

Reading of Zechariah 13.

Prayer

I’ve never been skydiving. I don’t think I really want to, but it is fun to watch videos. What’s fascinating is seeing the ground below from the perspective of the skydiver. At first, everything is so small. A large field looks like a postage stamp. A lake is just a blip. Mountains are like ant hills. When you are way up high, you can’t really make out any details, but what you do see is a broad perspective of the earth below. It’s like a huge three-dimensional map that stretches, literally, as far as you can see.

But as you descend, things start getting closer. Houses appear as tiny dots. Rivers and roads can be seen but look like thin lines. Colors are more brilliant because there’s less atmosphere between you and the ground - shades of browns and greens. Beautiful hues of blue from lakes and rivers.

At 3 or 4,000 feet, that’s when you would open your parachute, which would really slow down your descent. It’s then you can start to see the field below. Cars and trucks are visible. And as you get closer to landing, you can finally see people.

The book of Zechariah, as a whole, has been a little bit like sky diving. It stared out with these broad-brush categories about God and his people, about his presence and protection, and about sin and salvation.

It’s like God was revealing the entire landscape of redemption.

• Think of the vision of Jerusalem with walls of fire and God in their midst. It was a picture of God’s protection of his people and his presence with them.

• Or think of the vision of Joshua the high priest wearing dirty priestly attire. Satan was accusing him, but God vindicated him. He was given pure clean vestments. That was a picture of salvation for the people to see.

• Or the lampstand vision, which represented the church. God’s people were filled with his Spirit and called to be lights.

• Or the other visions of horses and horns and flying objects. Those were about God, and enemies of faith, and sin.

Do you see how the beginning of Zechariah revealed those different themes about God and redemption? But in those opening chapters, God’s people weren’t yet given the details. God did not show them, yet, how those promises would be fulfilled in the future.

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the people who had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. They were Zechariah’s original audience. And remember, they started out in a difficult situation. At first, they didn’t have much. There was no temple, no city walls, the land was barren. That’s discouraging. Part of the purpose of the first half of Zechariah was to call them back to God and encourage them. The visions revealed that God was at work, and he is sovereign. God was revealing to them why they were to remain faithful.

But as we’ve moved along in Zechariah, the ground has been getting closer and closer. Through Zechariah, God began focusing in on what true religion is, what to expect about the coming king, and the nature of his coming kingdom. Remember the priest who was crowned king in chapter 6? How God showed them that the messiah would fulfill a priestly and kingly role? Or remember the question about fasting in chapter 7? How true religion is about faith and not going through external motions. Or the beautiful picture of heavenly Jerusalem in chapter 8? A picture of the spiritual and heavenly nature of the coming kingdom.

Let me put it his way, God was giving them more and more details about the coming king, so that the people would know when he arrived. Starting in chapter 9, it’s like God pulled the ripcord. The parachute came out. Think about how these last 5 chapters have focused in on Christ, especially the days before the cross.

• He would enter Jerusalem riding a donkey

• Betrayed with 30 pieces of silver

• He would be rejected by hypocritical shepherds… and the people

• He would be the pierced one – that was last week. It was the first time in Zechariah where the people found out that the coming king would suffer.

And let me say, all of this, the entire book, as we’ve seen, has applicability to us today. In multiple ways. Our understanding of God and his promises have been enriched. God has directed us toward repentance; he’s called us to trust in him in disheartening situations; challenged us, his church, to press on in the work to which he has called us; revealed how to recognize unfaithful leaders as contrasted with faithful ones; he’s strengthened our faith in Christ and his saving work. And a side blessing of it all has been beholding God’s amazing Word, from beginning to end.

A couple of years ago, a prominent pastor in the Atlanta area said we need to unhitch ourselves from the Old Testament. Friends, I hope you’ve seen this year how wrong that view us. The Old Testament is so rich and wonderful. It expands our knowledge of God’s character and his relationship with us, his people. And the Old Testament reveals all these facets of God’s promises. Looking back, we can see how God has fulfilled them all in Christ. It’s truly remarkable. The Scriptures haven’t been a topic of Zechariah, it’s just that the book testifies to their depth.

I say all that as both a reminder and to give you some perspective on how these last couple chapters fit in the whole.

As we get to chapter 13, We’re about 1000 feet from the ground. We can see trees now and we’re steering our parachute to the landing zone.

Chapter 13 builds on chapter 12. We read that phrase, again… “the day of the Lord.” A couple of times. It’s that future day, or better said, that age when God would fulfill his promises of salvation.

These verses in chapter 13 connect to chapter 12 in a couple of ways related to that coming salvation.

• The first connection is about the suffering Savior. Chapter 12 introduced the pierced one. But, as you would expect, Zechariah provides more details about his suffering and salvation including a prophecy of what would come.

• The second connection is about how God works that salvation in the life of the believer. The end of chapter 12 was about repentance – grieving our sin. Well, chapter 13 shows us what should come after repentance.

Last week we talked through these two things. First, the Salvation that Christ accomplished on the cross. And second, how God then applies that salvation in each of us. We are given his Spirit.

You can think about it this way, the last 3 chapters of Zechariah prophesy about God’s saving work in the events of history – the savior and how he saved, and they prophesy about God’s saving work in the hearts and minds of people, who believe in the Savior.

So we’re going to continue those two stands, this morning. Two points. #1- The Savior and God’s Salvation… and point #2 - The Savior and Our Salvation

The Savior and God’s Salvation

So, first: The Savior and God Salvations. How he has done it. And we’re going to start in the middle. I want you to look at verse 7. It begins, “’Awake, O sword, against my shepherd.”

This expands on the pierced one from chapter 12. In those verses, it’s the people who were complicit in the piercing of the Lord. You and me, we killed him. But here, we learn that it’s not just the people who were involved in piercing the savior. Now, God is calling out for a sword. He commands that sword to go against his shepherd. In other words, he is also involved. And just like in the last chapter where the Lord identifies himself as the pierced one, so here, God connects the shepherd to himself. He says of the shepherd, “the man who stands next to me.” Well, who is the one, who is a man who is able to stand next to God? Well, there’s only one, and it’s Christ, who is God himself. In other words, God would orchestrate the suffering of his shepherd, Jesus.

Isaiah 53 comes to mind. That chapter is all about the suffering servant. It’s a prophecy about the suffering and death of Jesus. It says he was “pierced for our transgressions… crushed for our iniquities.” And Isaiah 53 identifies God as the one who accomplished it. It says of the messiah, ”he was… stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” and then later in the chapter, “it was the will of the Lord to crush him.”

Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12 and 13 are these two Old Testament pillars that portray the Messiah’s suffering and death. And both highlight God’s sovereign will over what would happen. And that’s consistent with the New Testament. Jesus himself, the night before his crucifixion, submitted himself to his Father’s will. He said, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” The cup meaning the suffering and death he would endure. But Jesus continued, “nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.” And in the book of Acts, chapter 2, the apostle Peter confirmed the same thing. He said Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God…” but as he says, “killed by the hands of lawless men.”

So this first part of Zechariah 13 verse 7 has been fulfilled in Christ… in his death, which accomplished God’s plan of redemption. It had been God’s plan all along.

As we continue along in verse 7, there’s a second prophecy that has also been fulfilled. It says, “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.” It’s the Lord’s sword that would strike the shepherd.

Jesus himself quoted this phrase as being fulfilled in him. We read that in Mark 14 earlier, but it’s also in Matthew’s Gospel account. Jesus had just finished the last supper with his disciples. They headed out from Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane. And Jesus tells them, “you will all fall away, for it is written,” he said, “‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.’”

And that’s exactly what happened. Jesus was soon arrested and his disciples scattered. They were afraid and fearful. Peter would soon deny he knew Jesus. They were nowhere to be seen during Jesus’ persecution, and mock trial, and crucifixion. Only later did they regather.

God, the Father, had struck his Son, Jesus, the Shepherd. And in doing so, yet another Zechariah prophecy was fulfilled. Do you see that? Over and over Jesus demonstrated he was Zechariah’s promised king. He accomplished what Zechariah prophesied – salvation. And he inaugurated that day, that age of salvation, that Zechariah spoke of. For on that day, salvation was achieved.

So, God revealed his Savior, his shepherd, whom he would strike. It had been part of his plan all along, and Jesus was the one who fulfilled it.

The Savior and Our Salvation

And that brings us to point #2 - The Savior and Our Salvation. Let’s turn our attention to how God works his salvation in his people. I’m using that word in a broader sense: God’s ongoing work of salvation in us. If you will, the sanctifying and purifying work of the Holy Spirit in those who believe. As I mentioned, repentance was the first part, the end of chapter 12 - mourning for our sin. Grieving over our sin. And chapter 13 continues. It highlights two more aspects of God’s ongoing work of salvation in us. First, the work of removing specific sin in our lives. And second, how God refines us and matures us in our faith.

And these are both connected to verse 1. The reason we re-read it is that it speaks of Jesus washing his people from their sin with his blood. To be really clear, verse 1 is about our justification. How the blood of Christ makes us righteous in God’s sight. But that leads to ongoing cleaning, the ongoing removal of sin in our lives and how God refines us in him.

This is not the first time that Zechariah prophesied that he would remove sin. The first was chapter 5 - the graphic vision of the flying scroll which sought out sin and burned it up… and the basket of evil, being carried away from God’s people.

Here in chapter 13, verse 2, God again promised that he would remove sin – both idols and false prophets. Now, it doesn’t qualify the word “prophets” with the word “false.” You may have noticed that, but the description here is about false prophets. Look how verse 3 describes the prophecies, “lies in the name of the Lord.” So, these verses are about the cutting off of idols and false prophets.

And the encouraging thing here is that the idols, mentioned in verse 2, will be “remembered no more.” It’s not that they will just be removed, they will also be forgotten. And false prophecy will be shameful. That’s verses 4 and 5. The false prophet will even lie, verse 6, saying he isn’t a false prophet. He’ll feel ashamed because the culture would not tolerate his prophecy. But the wounds on his back would betray his words. They refer to the cuts and scars that false prophets of the day would inflict upon themselves.

And this removal of sin is both for God’s people as a whole, corporately, and it’s also an individual thing. The description here is very personal. Father and mother will be against the lies and sin of their own son.

I want you to think of your own story. Some of you, when you came to faith in Christ, had a radical transformation in your life. But I suspect that for most of us here, the journey of putting sin to death has been slower. Is that true for you? I know that’s true for me. It’s been a slow but steady work of God’s Spirit. Some days it feels like I’m going backwards, but God has been at work. I know that because when I look back 5, 10, 15, 20 years, I can recognize God slowly removing sin in my life. We sometimes call that sanctification. More and more dying unto sin and living unto righteousness. True repentance will not lead to a dead end. No, the very definition of repentance is turning away from sin and to God. The repentance of chapter 12 needs to lead to the chapter 13 putting away of sin.

What are some of those struggles in your life? Coveting, lust, anger? Being deceitful? Are there idols that you have latched onto that replace God? The love of money, prestige, career, sports, or even yourself.

Through God’s Spirit, allow God to cut off that sin. As the apostle Paul said to Timothy in his second letter: “If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”

Well, I wish it ended there. I mean, that’s hard enough, isn’t it! The removal sin. But it’s only part of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life as a Christian. God also refines and matures us, which is often also be a difficult process.

Jump down to verses 8 and 9. Here we read of the refining process that God brings his people through.

And just like the cleansing from sin, there’s both a corporate and personal application. In verse 8, two-thirds of the people in the land will be cut off and perish – two-thirds of the scattered sheep.

When Jesus was crucified, it caused a fracture in the Jewish community. In fact, there was a lot of scattering of sheep because of persecution. Some believed in Jesus as the Messiah, but most did not. That pitted family against family, friend against friend.

Zechariah reveals here that the division of belief and unbelief would lead to a refining of the community. Those who did not believe would perish, the rest would live.

If you look down to the very last part of verse 9, it confirms for us who the 2/3 and 1/3 represent. God says of the 1/3 who are left, “they are my people” and the people would reply, “The Lord is my God.”

That is Covenant language. God was affirming his everlasting promise and relationship with them. But look what happens to the 1/3 that remained. Beginning of verse 9 – “I will put this third into the fire.”

Zechariah was not prophesying about the 2/3 that were cut off. No, these are the 1/3 who remain. These are God’s people - us. And what does God do? He takes them through the fire. He says he will, “refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.”

A few years ago we toured the old Sloss refinery in Birmingham. It’s a national historic landmark now, but for almost 100 years it was a metal refinery. It has these huge furnaces that used to melt the metal in these large basins. And part of the goal of melting the metal was to refine it. As it melted, the impurities called dross, would burn off. Typically after cooling it off, it would be melted again and again. Each time the metal would become more pure.

It's no fun when you are being refined…. when God brings you through various trials. At times, you may call out wondering where God is. Or you may not understand why God is bringing you through it, but that process refines your faith.

The apostle Peter put it this way: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

The point is this: God brings you through suffering and trials, so that you may mature in Christ. Peter continued, “But rejoice,” He’s saying that we should rejoice when we endure that trial. Why? Because in it, he says, “you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” You see, in that refinement, God does many things… He reorients your hope for the future. God gives you more confidence in him and his promises. He increases your boldness in witnessing and your love and care for others.

And it’s through that process that God shapes and molds you to become his instrument.

The Sloss refinery made and sold slabs of iron. They were used to make things like furnaces and stoves. But think of what happens to refined gold and silver. It’s crafted into jewelry and artwork.

You see, though painful, that process of refinement turns us into instruments of God’s grace. Beautiful testimonies of God’s work in our lives. And I should say, that happens through both the ongoing cleansing from sin and being refined in the fire.

Conclusion

As we come to a conclusion, did you catch the language all throughout this chapter? …the language about who doing this saving and sanctifying work? It’s all the work of God.

In verse 7, it’s God who raised up a sword against his shepherd – the savior. He is the one who struck the shepherd and scattered the sheep. He says, “I will turn my hand against them.”

And it is God who works out that salvation in his people. He says in verse 2, “I will cut off the names of the idols from the land,”And “I will remove from the land the prophets….”

And down in verse 9, “I will put a third into the fire, and refine them… and test them.”

You see it is all God’s work - both the accomplishing of redemption through the shepherd, and the application of that redemption to his people.

So as we approach our landing zone in the coming weeks… as we wrap up our study of Zechariah, may we see our savior, Jesus, more clearly. May we know of God’s sovereign plan in that salvation, and may we embrace his cleansing and refining work in our lives.

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