The Shepherd Struck
7 “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the LORD of hosts.
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the little ones.
8 In the whole land, declares the LORD,
two thirds shall be cut off and perish,
and one third shall be left alive.
9 And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ ”
Zechariah 13:7–9 (ESV)
Here is a prophecy
I. Of the sufferings of Christ, of him who was to be pierced, and was to be the fountain opened.
Awake, O sword! against my Shepherd, v. 7. These are the words of God the Father, giving order and commission to the sword of his justice to awake against his Son, when he had voluntarily made his soul an offering for sin; for it pleased the Lord to bruise him and put him to grief; and he was stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted, Isa. 53:4, 10.
Observe, 1. How he calls him.
“As God, he is my fellow;” for he thought it no robbery to be equal with God. He and the Father are one. He was from eternity by him, as one brought up with him, and, in the work of man’s redemption, he was his elect, in whom his soul delighted, and the counsel of peace was between them both. “As Mediator, he is my Shepherd, that great and good Shepherd that undertook to feed the flock,” ch. 11:7. He is the Shepherd that was to lay down his life for the sheep.
2. How he uses him:
Awake, O sword! against him. If he will be a sacrifice, he must be slain, for without the shedding of blood, the life-blood, there was no remission. men thrust him through as the good Shepherd (compare v. 3), that he might purchase the flock of God with his own blood, Acts 20:28. It is not a charge given to a rod to correct him, but to a sword to slay him; for Messiah the prince must be cut off, but not for himself, Dan. 9:26. It is not the sword of war that receives this charge, that he may die in the bed of honour, but the sword of justice, that he may die as a criminal, upon an ignominious tree. This sword must awake against him; he having no sin of his own to answer for, the sword of justice had nothing to say to him of itself, till, by particular order from the Judge of all, it was warranted to brandish itself against him. He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, in the decree and counsel of God; but the sword designed against him had long slumbered, till now at length it is called upon to awake, not, “Awake, and smite him; strike home; not with a drowsy blow, but an awakened one;” for God spared not his own Son.
II. Of the dispersion of the disciples thereupon: Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.
This our Lord Jesus himself declares to have been fulfilled when all his disciples were offended because of him in the night wherein he was betrayed, Mt. 26:31; Mk. 14:27. They all forsook him and fled. The smiting of the Shepherd is the scattering of the sheep. They were scattered every one to his own, and left him alone, Jn. 16:32. Herein they were like timorous sheep; yet the Shepherd thus provided for their safety, for he said, If you seek me, let these go their way. Some make another application of this; Christ was the Shepherd of the Jewish nation; he was smitten; they themselves smote him, and therefore they were justly scattered abroad, and dispersed among the nations, and remain so at this day. These words, I will turn my hand upon the little ones, may be understood either as a threatening (as Christ suffered, so shall his disciples, they shall drink of the cup that he drank of and be baptized with the baptism that he was baptized with) or as a promise that God would gather Christ’s scattered disciples together again, and he should give them the meeting in Galilee. Though the little ones among Christ’s soldiers may be dispersed, they shall rally again; the lambs of his flock, though frightened by the beasts of prey, shall recover themselves, shall be gathered in his arms and laid in his bosom. Sometimes, when the sheep are scattered and lost in the wilderness, yet the little ones, which, it was feared, would be a prey (Num. 14:31), are brought in, are brought home, and God turns his hand upon them.
III. Of the rejection and ruin of the unbelieving Jews (v. 8);
And this word has, and shall have, its accomplishment, in the destruction of the corrupt and hypocritical part of the church. It shall come to pass that in all the land of Israel two parts shall be cut off and die. The Roman army laid the country waste, and slew at least two-thirds of the Jews. Some understand by the cutting off, and dying, or two parts in all the earth, the abolishing of heathenism and Judaism, that Christianity, the third part, might be left to reign alone. The Jewish worship was quite taken away by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. And, some time after, Pagan idolatry was in a manner extirpated, when the empire became Christian.
IV. Of the reformation and preservation of the chosen remnant, those of them that believed, and the Christian church in general (v. 9):
The third part shall be left. When Jerusalem and Judea were destroyed, all the Christians in that country, having among them the warning Christ gave them to flee to the mountains, shifted for their own safety, and were sheltered in a city called Pella, on the other side Jordan. We have here first the trials and then the triumphs of the Christian church, and of all the faithful members of it. 1. Their trials: I will bring that third part through the fire of affliction. and will refine and try them as silver and gold are refined and tried. This was fulfilled in the persecutions of the primitive church, the fiery trial which tried the people of God then, 1 Pt. 4:12. Those whom God sets apart for himself must pass through a probation and purification in this world; they must be tried that their faith may be found to praise and honour (1 Pt. 1:6, 7), as Abraham’s faith was when it was tried by the command given him to offer up Isaac, Now know I that thou fearest me. They must be tried, that both those that are perfect and those that are not may be made manifest. They must be refined from their dross; their corruption must be purged out; they must be brightened and bettered. 2. Their triumphs.
(1.) Their communion with God is their triumph:
They shall call on my name, and I will hear them. They write to God by prayer, and receive from him answers of peace, and thus keep up a comfortable communion with him. This honour have all his saints.
(2.) Their covenant with God is their triumph:
“I will say, It is my people, whom I have chosen and loved, and will own; and they shall say, the Lord is my God, and a God all-sufficient to me; and in me they shall boast every day and all the day long. This God is our God for ever and ever.”
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible