In a previous article, Jesus the Shepherd-king, we discussed briefly the powerful and important role Jesus the Messiah has in the nation of Israel's past history and her future destiny. There are at least three dozen references to shepherds in the Old Testament--and a dozen and a half in the New Testament. As for sheep, one can find references to sheep nearly two hundred times in the Scriptures.
Whether in the Old Testament of the New, Jesus the Messiah is the True Shepherd of the sheep, and the rightful King of Israel, and all the nations.
Believers are like sheep, and Jesus is our own personal shepherd if we have entered into a personal relationship with Him. W. Phillip Keller's perennially favorite book A Shepherd Looks at the Twenty-Third Psalm, offers us city-folk help in understanding the nature and the ways of sheep ("all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way..."). Keller also speaks of the devoted, personal care a good shepherd displays in caring for the sheep of his fold. With Jesus, the shepherd's care of His own lasts forever, "...the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 21:4-6).
Travelers in Israel even today will often see Bedouins herding their sheep and goats on the hills-the sheep and goats look alike, but the company of goats is advantageous to the sheep. Goats are more active, enterprising, resourceful, and they know how to take better care of themselves. Sheep are among the most helpless of animals, and they're not very bright.
In both the Old Testament, with regard to Israel, and in the church, God entrusts the care of his flock to under-shepherds who are supposed to report directly and constantly to the Chief Shepherd. Jeremiah has a lot to say against Israel's leaders who had in effect brought harm and not good to God's flock.
Jeremiah's words against Israel's kings and priests and leaders came as the captivity of the Jews to Babylon drew near. As one often sees in the writings of the prophets, long term, good news is promised for God's people, in spite of the approaching near-term disasters. In this case the impending destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (586 BC) was on the immediate horizon:
"Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!" says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: "You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings," says the LORD.
[Future] "But I will gather the remnant of My flock [believing Jews] out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. "I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking," says the LORD.
"Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. [Yahweh tsidkenu]
"Therefore, behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "that they shall no longer say, 'As the LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,' "but, 'As the LORD lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.' And they shall dwell in their own land." (Jeremiah 23:1-8)
Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi were God's prophets in Israel after the Jews returned from Babylon. As Isaiah had predicted two hundred years earlier, God would use the Persians, who conquered Babylon in 539 BC, to permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem from Babylon. The Jews did indeed rebuild their [Second] temple, dedicating it in 515 BC (with encouragement from Haggai), They served under Zerubbabel, a legitimate king in the line of David, and a legitimate High Priest, Joshua. In 445 BC Nehemiah came to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. God's next major move in Israel's history would come nearly 500 years later when Israel's long awaited Messiah would make his appearance among His own people. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all announced Messiah's arrival and His work.
Zechariah's writing looks to Israel's future. In visions and oracles he foresaw both the First and Second Advents of Messiah.
Like the other writers of the Old Testament, Zechariah did not see the 2000 year gap between these two advents of Israel's Shepherd-king. The approaching creation of what we call the church was not even announced in Scripture until near the end of Jesus' ministry when Jesus made these plans known, (Matthew 16:13-19). This was after His rejection by the people and the national leadership of Israel. Jesus' approaching betrayal, mock trial, and execution in Jerusalem was essentially a done deal. His resurrection and the subsequent strong testimonies of His disciples (as seen in the book of Acts) did not change pubic opinion in Israel, but only made things worse for the remnant.
Zechariah's' announcement that their true Shepherd-King would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey is quoted in Matthew 21:2-7 and John 12:12-15 in reference to what we now call Palm Sunday.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)
There follows an announcement by Zechariah of Messiah's second advent, as if the second coming of Messiah would immediately follow the first. Messiah's anger against false shepherds and his long term plans for His people Israel are the subject of Zechariah Chapter 10:
"My anger is kindled against the shepherds, And I will punish the goatherds. For the LORD of hosts will visit His flock, The house of Judah, And will make them as His royal horse in the battle. From him comes the cornerstone, From him the tent peg, From him the battle bow, From him every ruler together. They shall be like mighty men, Who tread down their enemies In the mire of the streets in the battle. They shall fight because the LORD is with them, And the riders on horses shall be put to shame. "I will strengthen the house of Judah, And I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back, Because I have mercy on them. They shall be as though I had not cast them aside; For I am the LORD their God, And I will hear them. Those of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, And their heart shall rejoice as if with wine. Yes, their children shall see it and be glad; Their heart shall rejoice in the LORD. I will whistle for them and gather them, For I will redeem them; And they shall increase as they once increased..." (Zechariah 10:3-8)
By the way, Zechariah's description of "shepherds" includes kings, priests, governors, overseers. It is not merely religious leaders who are in view when a shepherd of Israel, or a foreign shepherd, is described symbolically in the Old Testament.
In Chapter 11, the prophet was called to act out the role of Israel's various future shepherds. His first assignment was to play the role of Israel's shepherd over a flock "destined to slaughter." In the light of subsequent history we can now see that this is a reference to the consequences to Israel which would follow their rejection of Jesus, their True Shepherd. Though most of the nation had turned away in rejecting Jesus "the poor of the flock," (i.e., the faithful remnant), had not. This little flock would include the disciples, key members of the believing remnant.
Setting the nation Israel aside for a season, the Good Shepherd asked these disciples to go to the gentiles inviting any and all to come into His greater family-essentially another branch of the family of Abraham. (The parable of Jesus in Matthew 22:1-14 is vividly clear to us now by way of hindsight).
Messiah's first advent was a near-total failure with regard to the Jewish nation, because of Jesus' rejection by the people and their leadership-the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and their Roman overlords. ("He came to his own, but his own received him not...")
From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar." When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?"
The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!"
Then Pilate delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away." (John 19:12-16)
Jesus fully realized the terrible future ahead for His people Israel, during his final visit to Jerusalem.
Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:" 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!' Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. "For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, "and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:37-44)
Before moving into a discussion of Israel's coming false or worthless shepherd, Zechariah presents a prophetic overview of Messiah's rejection and the terrible consequences for His people.
Thus says the LORD my God, [to Zechariah] "Feed the flock for slaughter, whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt; those who sell them say, 'Blessed be the LORD, for I am rich'; and their shepherds do not pity them. For I will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land," says the LORD. "But indeed I will give everyone into his neighbor's hand and into the hand of his king. They shall attack the land, and I will not deliver them from their hand." So I fed the flock for slaughter, in particular the poor of the flock. I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bonds; and I fed the flock. (Zechariah11:4-7)
"I dismissed the three shepherds in one month. My soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me. [v 8 is difficult and controversial, probably the reference is to three classes of leaders such as prophets, priests and kings-- James Boice.]
Then I [Zechariah] said, "I will not feed you. Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish. Let those that are left eat each other's flesh." And I took my staff, Beauty, and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. So it was broken on that day. Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD. (11:8-11)
The unity and national identity of Israel would be broken, and God would remove His protection of Israel from hostile foreign nations. The "poor of the flock" [the believing remnant] would perceive the hand of God in all these coming events.
Assuming the role of Israel's true Messiah, Zechariah asks what wages he should be paid for his services. The sarcastic answer is that he was thought worth no more to them than the price of a slave, a mere 30 shekels. (The reference here is of course to the disciple Judas and his betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver).
Then I said to them, "If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain." So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"--that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter. Then I cut in two my other staff, Bonds, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. (11:12-14)
Jesus had predicted the destruction of the Second Jewish temple (Matthew 24:1-2). That took place in AD 70 when Titus besieged the city in order to quell ongoing riots against Roman rule. In AD 132 a man named Bar Kochba led a further revolt against Roman rule. At that time Rabbi Akiva declared Bar Kochba to be the Messiah. This resulted in more revolt and inevitably further persecution of the Jews by the Romans, culminating in AD 135. Josephus says the loss of life during these Jewish revolts was of the order of 1.5 million Jews. The Jews were finally dispersed altogether from their own land for nearly two millennia. (See Deuteronomy 29 which concerns the right of the Jews to live in their land).
For all practical purposes the nation Israel then disappeared from the stage of history, some thought forever. But Jews began to trickle back to their own land in the late 19th Century and in 1948, statehood was declared as British and French rule in the Middle East way gave way to national independence.
At the close of Chapter 11, Zechariah acts out the role of a coming worthless, or "foolish" shepherd of Israel. He will violently and cruelly mistreat the flock of Israel-especially the believing remnant whom he will hunt down and murder. But his strength and his discernment, (symbolized by the arm withering and the right eye going blind)-will fail him utterly when the True Shepherd returns.
And the LORD said to me, "Next, take for yourself the implements of a foolish shepherd. for indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces.
"Woe to the worthless shepherd, Who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm And against his right eye; His arm shall completely wither, And his right eye shall be totally blinded." (Zechariah 11:15-17)
[The Hebrew word translated "foolish" (Heb.: 'eviliy) is used in a moral sense, as in Proverbs, and means one who despises wisdom, a person who mocks when guilty, who is quarrelsome, and licentious].
We can immediately connect other prophetic passages in the Old Testament and the New which speak of Israel's worthless shepherd. Jesus spoke of the fake Messiah who would come on stage in Israel because He, the rightful Shepherd, had already been rejected by His people.
"...the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father's name, and you [Jews] do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you--Moses, in whom you trust. "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" (John 5:37-47)
Israel's future foolish, or worthless, shepherd is synonymous with Paul's "man of sin" or "lawless one" in 2 Thessalonians:
"Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-15)
Looking back at the predictions of our Lord Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, Paul's "man of sin" is also the personage Jesus called "the abomination of desolation," calling attention to relevant prophecies by Daniel.
"Therefore when you [believing Jews living in Jerusalem] see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place [the temple]" (whoever reads, let him understand), "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened." (Matthew 24-15-22)
One also finds this false shepherd announced as the second of two "beasts" (evil, human world rulers) announced in the book of the Revelation:
"Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed." (Revelation 13:11-12)
Ray Stedman comments as follows on this passage:
"This beast arises from the earth, used throughout the book as a symbol of Israel. That is why most biblical scholars say this man is probably a Jew. He comes from Israel and has "two horns like a lamb, but he talks like a dragon." He looks like a lamb, but he talks like a dragon. He is, therefore, a fake lamb, to put it bluntly. This is the Antichrist, the one who comes instead of Christ, who offers himself as though he were Christ. It is for this reason I believe the term Antichrist is properly applied to this second beast, although both beasts are anti-Christian in character. Horns speak of power, and this man has two lamb-like powers. Jesus also had these powers: the powers of a priest and of a prophet. This man acts as both. Jesus is a priest who leads men and women all over the world to worship the Father; and this individual is a priest, leading the world to worship the first beast.
"Many have pointed out that we have here a kind of Satanic trinity -- the first beast corresponding to the Father, the false prophet corresponding to the Son, and the dragon himself, Satan, playing the role of the invisible Holy Spirit. It is Satan's imitation of the true God. The false priest accomplishes his aim in getting the world to worship the beast in a very remarkable way, described in 13 through 15.
He performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth [those who dwell on the earth]. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. (Revelation 13:13-15 NIV)
"Here he acts as a prophet. The prophets of old did miracles to establish their credentials, their God-given authority. Moses and Elijah each did great miracles, and, as the two witnesses of Chapter 11, they call fire down from heaven. So this man must call fire from heaven. Paul tells us that the devil has the power to do miracles too. Thus we must not trust every miracle as though it were done by God. It may be the work of the enemy, the Evil One. This false prophet calls down fire out of heaven, and deceives the world by such means.
"Many biblical scholars feel that, because he is a Jew, he has his headquarters in Jerusalem. I think that is highly likely. He is the one whom the prophet Daniel identifies as making a covenant with the Jews for one week (7 years), and thus solving the centuries-old problem of the Middle East, the enmity between the Arabs and Israelis. During the first half of that week, the temple will be rebuilt on Mount Moriah...For a seven-year period the Jews believe they are allowed to re-establish their worship in the temple. But, Daniel says, this "prince who will come" (Daniel 9:26 KJV) shall break that covenant in the middle of the week, i.e. after three and a half years, and entering the temple himself, begin to exalt himself as God, as Paul describes in his letter to the Thessalonians.
"Since the political leader of the western coalition is in Rome, this religious leader in Jerusalem seems to feel it necessary to create an image of the Roman leader and put it in the temple for the worship of the world. He is able, we are told, to give breath to that image to make it seem alive. In one of the exhibits in Disneyland you can find Abraham Lincoln sitting in a chair! He looks very real and while you are standing there he will get up out of the chair and walk over and talk to you! I shall never forget how impressive it was to see and hear Abraham Lincoln when I visited that exhibit! The technology to make an image of a man that seems to live and speak and walk, is already here. The whole world will doubtless run tour buses to worship it. It is not necessary that they really think it is a living person, but they will worship it because it represents a living person, and they will honor that impressive symbol in that day. By means of that image this false prophet will claim godlike powers for himself and the first beast, and will command the loyalty and obedience of all on the earth. In Verse 16 we learn this man also rebuilds the world's economic system.
He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666. (Revelation 13:16-18 NIV)
"Evidently during these days worldwide commerce will be rigidly controlled from a central headquarters. Again we know that the technology to do this is already in place. If you have a credit card you know that your entire credit information can be imprinted on that little metallic strip on the back so that whenever you present that card everyone will instantly know whether you are a cheapskate or that you pay your bills. You cannot hide. Furthermore, we are told that it can all be actually implanted in a tiny disk in the skin on the back of the hand or on the forehead or wherever desired, so that information about you can be read by passing your hand under a beam of light just as they do now in the supermarkets with the bar codes. The technology is already available. It is remarkable how we are apparently drawing close to these days...
"So we see that John is showing us how the devil works. He attempts to organize behavior and from that always comes violence. When any government turns totalitarian and seeks to control every deed, every act, of its citizens, it produces a violent reaction. Turn on your television sets and you will see it in every news broadcast today. The Antichrist tries to organize belief as well as behavior, and when belief is organized it always produces deceit. There is nothing more deceitful than false religion. These are the weapons of Satan: He either intimidates or deceives. He has only two weapons, force and fantasy, lying and brutality, one or the other, or a mixture of both.
"What this text is saying is that when he is violent, then wait, endure, be patient! God will work this all out. His rules will never be set aside. Sooner or later Satan's instrument will hang himself, as Judas did; he will be caught up in his own web. And when he lies, "Think," God says, "be critical, evaluate!" When anyone acts godlike, makes pretentious claims, claims supernatural gifts and demands obedience, that is not God talking. He is not from God. It is just a man, that is all, thinking and acting like a fallen man. It is not the real Lamb -- it is only a fake lamb, so laugh at him and refuse to follow him. But be prepared to hold out even unto death! That is the message of this chapter. I hope you can see how true this is, how it is confirmed by life around us every day. We are headed for these very things at a greater speed then we have ever seen before in the history of the world." (Ray Stedman, When Men Become Beasts,
The false shepherd of Israel is most likely the "king," or ruler in Jerusalem, at the time of the last great world war. See Nearing the End of the Age.
"Then the king [the foolish shepherd, ruling in Jerusalem] shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. "He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. "But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses [forces]; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. "Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with [the help of] a foreign god, [evidently the first beast of Revelation 13] which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land [Israel] for gain." (Daniel 11:36-39)
The end of Israel's worthless shepherd will come about suddenly when Jesus the True Shepherd King makes His second appearance on earth, this time appearing in full military power and might. Here the book of Revelation closely parallels the final three chapters of Zechariah, 12-14.
"Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, "that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great." And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone." (Revelation 19:11-20)
The approaching arrival of Israel's false prophet on the stage of history affects not only that nation, but the entire world. Ray Stedman offers this caution and encouragement,
"In other words, if you refuse the true shepherd, God will allow you to have a false shepherd. Again it was the Lord Jesus who said to the Pharisees, the blinded Pharisees of his day, "I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive." (John 5:43) This is that character whom Paul tells us about in Thessalonians called the man of lawlessness who comes to Israel as their deliverer and is received as the Messiah, but turns out to be the anti-Messiah, what we know as the anti-Christ, the false shepherd who comes when they reject and refuse the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:3ff)
"I have often wondered at the number of people who fall into anti-Christian cults that abound today. Why is it? Time after time I have found that they have done so because they have rejected some opportunity to hear the truth, and the result is that they fall into the clutches of what sounds like truth but is a lie. As Paul says, "God sends upon them a strong delusion to make them believe what is false...who did not believe the truth." (2 Thessalonians 2:11)
"Then we come to the last section, chapters 12 through 14, where we have this beautiful picture of God finding a way to come back into the lives of his people. It opens with these words (chapter 12, verses 2, 3):
"Lo, I am about to make Jerusalem a cop of reeling to all the peoples round about; It will be against Judah also in the siege against Jerusalem. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it shall grievously hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will come together against it." (Zechariah 12:2-3 RSV)
"According to the Scriptures, the darkest days for Jerusalem lie yet ahead. It shall become a burden to the nations, a grievous stone of stumbling, the prophetic scriptures say. The peoples of the nations shall be gathered together about the city and Zechariah tells us that God will not allow himself to be ignored. He vows that he will break through into human consciousness and it will come about this way (verses 9, 10):
"And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn." (Zech12:9-10 RSV)
"Isn't that amazing? Israel in its blindness refusing its Messiah refusing to recognize the one that God sent, never realizing that the one whom they pierced is coming again... (Adventuring Through the Bible, Zechariah)
At a point in human history, long after the creation of our race, God chose the nation of Israel as a representative, model nation to demonstrate who He is and what He is like--for all the world to see. The God of Israel demonstrates that He has been a loving, caring, Shepherd for His people Israel--and for all others who know Him--down through history.
To this day only a remnant of the people of Israel has heeded the clear calling of their Shepherd-King with the result that the nation of Israel has suffered a long series of tragic consequences. Things will get worse, according to the prophets: Having rejected Jesus as their Good Shepherd this present age will culminate in that nation's acceptance of a totally false, counterfeit "worthless shepherd."
Tiny Israel remains the most important of the nations. Until Israel is fully and finally reconciled to her God, war, violence and disaster will continue to plague all of mankind. Thus what happens in Israel in the days ahead will increasingly affect the entire world as the out-calling of the church draws to a close.
The calling out of a separate group of people, the church, is but a short interlude in God's redemptive work with the Israel and all the other nations of the planet.
The Jews have always been persecuted people because of their key calling to make known the one true God to a world which hates God. Hatred and persecution of all of God's people will get worse before things gets better. The genuine life of Israel has always resided in the believing remnant, not in the visible majority. So it is also with today's called-out people, the church of Jesus Christ. In both cases, "Not everyone one who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is heaven."
Jesus, the Good Shepherd and Rightful King. will come to earth a second time to honor His ancient promises to the Patriarchs, to Israel, plus promises of blessing which extend to all the nations.
The church is privileged to be invited to rule and reign with Jesus as He will work to restore the earth upon His return. The Bible does not support the popular belief that the church has replaced Israel in the overall, grand plan of God! Now is a great time to read the Old Testament (as well as the New) with great diligence-paying attention to every jot and tittle.
"What determines the future is what God has done in the past
and what He has promised to do in the future.
So don't look horizontally at current events."
(Ray C. Stedman)