The Lord Will Care For His People
By Timothy Lopez
Key Verse 10:4
“From Judah will come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler.”
When this chapter opens, it does so with an exhortation to ask the Lord for rain. We know that this passage is one of the prophecies that Zechariah proclaimed to Israel after his night of visions. But we’re not quite sure when he declares this prophecy. Yet we see that this portion begins with the simple appeal to ask the Lord for some rain. In respect to this whole passage, this is the one thing that Israel was to do. And the rest of this passage seems to be God’s response to this prayer. And the response seems to be a thunderstorm of love and care and blessing from the Lord. Here’s a question for you. What are you asking Him today? What did you ask Him this morning? Maybe some of us aren’t asking Him all that much. Or maybe some are asking him too much. Remember when the disciples marched up to Jesus one day asking too much. They weren’t all that humble about it either. They said, “Teacher… we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” (Mk 10:35) That’s one-way people approach Him. So, we can say that there are three kinds of people. There are some who don’t ask enough, some who abuse their privilege, and some who with commendable faith ask the very things he’s promised. Which group are we a part of? Well whether we’re in the first group or second or third group, this message is for us. Because we could all be a lot better off with some of Lord’s promises coming true in our lives, right? And we would also be a lot better off, even if it’s to just have our eyes fixed on and desiring those heavenly treasures he’s promised. Those are the kinds of things that would bless our lives. Even if the promises seem a long way off, it’s still good to keep them in our heart and in our vision. As the Apostle Paul said, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
Read verses 1 & 2. “Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone. The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.” Calling on the name of the Lord, you might recognize as a way of seeking Him and a form of worship. And Israel was doing this for a time. But somewhere along the way they stopped. Now, when someone stops seeking or worshipping God, it’s never really on their own. It’s never really on our own. It’s never because we’ve been tired for a while, or because we got too busy for a season. According to this passage it seems that there is a third party involved. Israel let someone or something else get involved with their sacred and blessed fellowship with the Lord. According to verse 2, Idols had become such a large part of Israel’s life, so much so that they had to be taught again that it is the Lord who provides all their needs— that He willingly provides what they need. They had to be taught that He’s the one they should be seeking and the one to depend on. This is nothing new. The idols of this world always seem to be competing with the Lord trying to win us over. Sometimes it starts with one idol— just one idol that seems so harmless at first. But soon enough the one had become many. Until they were so wrapped up in the web of what they said and the pleasure they gave, that they forgot about God. They forgot that He is the one who generously and graciously cares for them. And it’s because they forgot this that they were miserable. And as a result, “the people wandered like sheep without a shepherd.”
You might recall various occasions in the New Testament where this phrase was used. On one occasion, the disciples were exhausted from serving the people. Jesus could tell that they needed to rest with him. They tried to retreat. Yet still, somehow the crowds found them, and their endless needs. The Lord could not just simply send them away. Scripture tells us that he was overcome with compassion for the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He saw them as harassed and helpless. You see, the idea of a shepherd is someone that takes care of the flock. First and foremost, at the bare minimum, he feeds them. Without food they won’t survive no matter what you do. He doesn’t stop there. He takes them along green pastures where it’s safe to comfort and protect them. Unfortunately, we live in a world where most have rejected God and his words, and therefore this is their condition-verse 2 that is. They don’t have protection. They don’t have direction. And they don’t have food. They have been drawn away, looking for all these things elsewhere, instead of coming to Him. So how does God respond to this?
Read verse 3. “My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah, and make them like a proud horse in battle.” The Lord here is promising to come to the flock’s rescue and care for them. And this kind of care will be like what they have never experienced before. He equates it to looking like a proud horse in battle. Not some wimpy and vulnerable animal. This statement has a lot in it, but meanwhile, the Lord’s response is that He is burning with anger against the shepherds of Israel. Why is He so angry? Remember in 8:1, he is very jealous for his flock. He burns for jealousy for them. I’m not so sure there is a more intimate way to express one’s love for someone else. When people use these words, it borders on the unusual. So, if those of whom the Lord loves so much, aren’t being cared for and are neglected, the Lord will burn with anger against those who were supposed to get the job done. The call of a shepherd is a very serious one. Personally, I don’t think it’s one that we should blindly rush into. You might recall that when Jesus showed up on the scene, he had a bone to pick with the shepherds of Israel. The Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of law were dealt with harshly and sometimes publicly because they really didn’t care about the people. They were like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. On one occasion Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Mt 23:13) The shepherds of Jesus’ time, only cared about one thing. They exploited the vulnerable and helpless flock of God for their own benefit. What a crime! And that’s what was going on in Israel around Zechariah’s time as well. So, let’s see what God promises his flock in response to this.
Read verse 4. “From Judah will come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler.” Many of us know that the cornerstone here is Jesus. There are many other verses and passages that allude to the Messiah being the cornerstone. But what is a cornerstone? You might recall from chapter 4 that Zerubbabel laid the cornerstone for the temple, and he was prophesied to lay the capstone of the temple, which was the very last stone. The cornerstone however is exactly the opposite of the capstone. It’s the very first stone that is laid for building a structure made of stone. No one really builds out of stone these days. It’s really a lost art. Today we don’t really build without using a manufactured product of which you can provide CofAs and SDS’s and all kinds of other credentials. But when they did build with stone, the cornerstone was the most important piece. This stone had to be laid by the master mason because it was the stone that would determine the squareness of the walls. And the mason had to lay it as the anchor for the rest of the foundation. How important would you say that stone is? It’s vitally important, right? The whole structure depended on this. In other words, if it was a little bit off it could compromise everything on top of it.
Our Lord Jesus had to be laid a specific way as well. He was laid down in death, specifically death on a cross and of separation from the Heavenly Father. And He was laid this way because it was the Father’s will, so that we, you and me, would not be utterly off from Him. And the story doesn’t end there. But Christ rose in glory and is seated at the right hand of the Heavenly Father, interceding for us and caring for us! All this so that we could be included in his wonderful flock known as the body of Christ. And this body has great privileges. We have the privilege of becoming liberated and cleansed from our sins and curses. We have the blessing of finding out and living it out our God-given mission in this world. We have endless privileges of living a life of blessing being part of the body of Christ. Praise be to God.
Though this Cornerstone was laid by the Master Mason our Heavenly Father, don’t forget that he was rejected. (Ps 118:22) This precious cornerstone of which the world was to build on, was not recognized. And He was not received. Many of us at some point decided to build our lives in vain. We built them on something else and were left to our ruin. People shake their fists at God, rejecting his Son and rejecting His word, all the while being left to this world of deception and oppression.
Again, in verse 4, we see that the Christ is referred to as several other things like the tent peg. Now we don’t hear that phrase too often today. It’s not in the music. It’s not the Christian T-shirts or Christian home decorations. But it’s still important. Now we know that a tent was used back in these days for travelers. After setting up a tent, it might look nice and beautiful but if you forget to anchor it, you’ll find that your evening might not be a boring one. The Apostle Paul was a tentmaker, supporting himself and wholeheartedly serving God’s ministry. And he gives us the wonderful analogy of this body and this life resembling a tent. It’s temporary. It’s only with us here and now while we’re on our journey to the glory and joy of the Lord. But nevertheless, don’t despise it, it’s what we have and what we need to take care of. Christ who is our tent peg will secure us in the violent storms of life that wail and beat against its walls. The deeper the Tent Peg, the better we will be. Sometimes we’re tempted to take a break from our mission and our fellowship with the Lord. The days look nice and sunny, the coast looks clear, wealth isn’t a problem, health isn’t a problem, all’s going well. “Let me remove this tent peg, because it seems to be weighing down my life,” one might say. Let me stop calling on his name. Let me stop listening to his commands. Let me remove His word from my heart. But then one day we might be surprised, a storm like job loss, or health problems, or sin problems find themselves starkly upon us. Driving in a tent peg is a lot harder to do in the middle of a storm than it is when all is calm and well. In fact, that is the time to drive it deeper into the ground, so that we can withstand the storms and hardships coming our way. And while in this tent, they will come. As long as we’re on this side of heaven, we can be sure that we’ll have a storm to endure, until we reach our destination with the Lord.
Look at verse 4 one more time. We also see that Christ is referred to as the battle bow. As you’ve been reading this passage you might notice that there looks to be some kind of war that’s going to take place. We can see that care and shepherding of the Lord will seem to look a certain way. I mean the flock of God is being described as war horses, and there’s talk of them trampling their enemies into the mud of the streets. But for most of us, and our redeemed perspectives, it might be hard to see this the way that they saw it. But remember, that to them, their enemies were from the Assyrian empire. They were the ones opposing them while they’re trying to rebuild the temple and their nation. Even when Jesus came, during the oppression from the Romans, the Jews would look at passages like this and thought, “Well hey, the Messiah’s not supposed to come humble and suffering. He’s supposed to come and put these guys in their place. He’s supposed to be our battle bow.” Even now the Israelites are in conflict with other nations. They quote verses like these to people like the Palestinians thinking God will enable them to crush their enemies into the streets, when this Battle-like messiah comes.
In our western world, people think our worst enemies are things like this virus, and the bad economy, racial conflict, and the mismanagement of our borders. They want a messiah that will set all these things right. Little do they know that is just the way this cursed world is. But the good news is that this world will one day end. It’s like the Titanic. Which is headed on its way to crash and burn and everything else with it. So, there’s no reason to establish ourselves here and now. Because the whole thing is going down! Now that doesn’t mean to make light of our suffering. Our suffering is very precious in the Lord’s sight, and there’s no one whose more mindful about it than Him. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t try to be stewards over our ministry, jobs and families either. For we’ll one day have to account for what He gave us to manage here on earth. But let us be reminded, our Messiah the battle bow, came as John the Baptist said, as “The lamb who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) He came to deal with the root cause of our hardship here. The battle against sin in our lives is probably the fiercest and most important battle there is. And as shepherds, the battle to help others lay off the burden of sin is one that’s impossible without Christ–who is our battle bow— our tent peg and our Cornerstone. Now why does the Lord want to help us with our battle against sin?
Read verse 6. “I will strengthen Judah and save the tribes of Joseph. I will restore them because I have compassion on them. They will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.” You might recall from Nehemiah, that when he heard of the condition of his people returning from the exile he was heartbroken. He was so heartbroken, he mourned and prayed for days because of their condition. They were in great trouble and were utterly disgraced. (Neh 1:3) But the Lord promises to do three things here: to strengthen, to save and to restore them. This applies not just to their physical condition, but also to their spiritual condition. We’re talking here about total transformation. Why would this happen? Is it because of their good performance that day? Is it because they prayed extra-long and shaped up? No! It is only because of God’s grace and mercy. All of their dignity and joy would be owed solely to the generous mercy of God. They had been completely and justly cast off from God, which was the root of all their trouble. But now they would be received and restored, which would be the root of all their joy. Their appearance would be as if they had never been rejected. All of their transgressions would not only be forgiven, but it’s as if they would be forgotten about. They would be perfectly reconciled to Him, as if there was never any fall out between them. As if nothing ever disrupted their harmonious fellowship.
Look at verses 8 & 9. “I will signal for them and gather them in. Surely I will redeem them; they will be as numerous as before. 9Though I scatter them among the peoples, yet in distant lands they will remember me. They and their children will survive and they will return. Sometimes a shepherd used to call their sheep in by a whistle. Some by a pipe. And some by their voice. Our Lord was one that used his voice. The preaching of the gospel message is His voice to all his sheep calling them from the ends of the world. He’s calling them to the redemption of green and safe pastures. The phrase Surely I will redeem them, some of us can say Surely he has redeemed us by His blood. We have been rightfully bought and no longer belong to this world. In the gospels He expressed how he had longed to gather us as children together, like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. (Mat 23:37)
When we look at verses 10 and 11 we can see that coming to Christ, as likened to Israel’s exodus from long ago. There is no doubt that some of these prophecies were already completed for Israel. But they also have a spiritual undertone. Our former spiritual bondage is always equated to oppression from Egypt and Assyria in Scripture. While Lebanon and Gilead equate to the promised destination of God’s flock, where they can enjoy blessings and luxuries of being a child of God. But how will this be? How will a people of whom seemed so deep in the clutches of spiritual bondage find their way to the Lord? The same way Israel left the clutches of Egypt by the Lord’s Almighty hand and by his power to save them. The same power that subdued the surging sea, will subdue the grips of sin and of the world. And the current of temptation and affliction of which they can’t seem to get away from, the Lord will dry it up with his mighty hand just as he had dried up the Nile.
Verse 12 says, “I will strengthen them in the Lord and in his name they will live securely, declares the Lord.” Take a moment and count the amount of “I wills” in this passage. I counted about 8 or 9. With this in mind, should there be any doubt that the Lord will care for his flock, no matter what season they are in? And when we set our hearts to follow him, is there any doubt that he will strengthen for such a task? Paul uses this phrase in the Lord throughout his letters. And one occasion he talks we are to do with the strength the Lord provides. He said, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:28,29) The strength that God has provided is for His purpose. Not to be idle. To preach him and to present ourselves fully mature in Christ. May God give us the grace to set our hearts on this mission. With his love in our hearts, may we be fixed is this glorious task set before us of preaching him and maturing in Him. God bless you.