7 “Awake, 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.
8 In the whole land,” declares the Lord,
“two-thirds will be struck down and perish;
yet one-third will be left in it.
9 This third I will put 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 NIV)
Let’s do a quick review of the last few sections to understand today’s passage. Remember all of this is in the future, both for Zechariah and for us. In chapter 12, starting at verse 10, the people of Israel come to the realization that Jesus, the One that their forefathers rejected, is in fact, Messiah. Their realization is not just head knowledge; it brings about deep mourning and repentance. And the Lord, true to His character, offers grace and mercy to His children.
Starting in Chapter 13, we see the Lord providing cleansing from sin, symbolized by a fountain (13:1). Those who are truly repentant will be cleansed of their sins. The redeemed, the forgiven ones, then, are markedly different from those who are still in their sins. Verses 2 – 6 identify the remaining false prophets and idols that will be purged from Israel. This is both objects (household idols) as well as people (fortune tellers, soothsayers, false prophets, etc.).
As we begin today’s text, we see the focus shift from the children of Israel mourning (12:10-ff) to the redemption fountain (13:1) and removal of false prophets (13:2-6) to the Redeemer, the One who will make all this possible.
Verse 7 is God Himself speaking. He calls for the sword (death) of His Shepherd, against Messiah. God says that this man (Messiah) is close to Him. This phrase might be more accurately translated “against the mighty man who is my equal”.
Let’s stop for just a moment here… this is noteworthy. God is saying that He is responsible for Messiah’s death! In chapter 12 verses 10-14, the Jewish people thought their forefathers were responsible for Messiah’s death. God is saying that He takes full responsibility for calling for the death of His Son. Yes, the Jewish forefathers of Jesus’ day rejected Him, but God had the final responsibility for the death of His Son.
And what will happen when the Shepherd is killed? The sheep (God’s people) will be scattered, even the defenseless “little ones”.
What is God saying? Jesus quotes verse 7 in Matthew 26:31. God is talking about persecution of those associated with Jesus. Remember Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 15:18-25? If Jesus’ enemies persecuted Him for no reason, they will persecute anyone associated with Jesus as well. Jesus goes on to say that those who scatter the sheep (persecute followers of Jesus) will think they are doing a noble thing, even as they kill those who vow allegiance to Christ (John 16:2-3).
And what happened in Jesus’ day? After Stephen was stoned to death, the followers of Jesus were persecuted and were scattered (Acts 8:1). And what took place as these followers of Jesus fled for their lives? They preached the Word wherever they went (Acts 8:4). Persecution happened in Jesus’ day, and it continues today.
God fast-forwards the time reference from to Jesus’ death and the persecution of the saints to the end times as we read verses 8 – 9. Here we see God saying that there will be a battle and two-thirds of the Jewish people of that day will be killed; only one-third will survive. These are likely the events leading up to (and possibly including) the Great War, the final showdown between God and Satan, the Battle of Armageddon.
Jesus talked about this time of immense loss in Matthew 24. In fact, in verse 22 of Matthew 24, Jesus said that no one will survive without God intervening. And that is what God promises in verse 8 of today’s passage – there will be a remnant of Israel that survives.
In verse 9, God says that this remnant of Jewish believers will not only survive, but they will pass the test of faithfulness to Him. They will be refined through fiery trials just as gold and silver are refined through the use of fire to melt the metals and remove the impurities.
And what will be the end result? The Jewish remnant will call on God, and He will respond to them. God will say, ‘They are my people,’ and the remnant will respond, ‘The Lord is our God.’
Dear friend, are you a follower of Christ? If so, what is your expectation of life? That it will be a bed of roses, and everything will be for your comfort and convenience?
Jesus promised just the opposite.
May we choose wisely and stay true to Jesus and His commands, even when it may cause us great pain and suffering. Through persecution, God is refining us to be more like Him, just as God promises to do with the faithful remnant of Jewish believers in the end times asd we saw in today’s passage.
Lord, we don’t know when these end times will come – whether in our day or in generations to come, beyond our lifetime. Help us to remain faithful to You, to call upon Your name when times are hard and we feel the weight of persecution against You and against us. Refine us with Your fire, so that we can reflect Your glory and others will see You in us. May they then declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in Him for salvation.