Zec_11:12-13. And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord [Note: The text may properly consist of these words only. Zec_11:13. A goodly price that I was prized at of them! And they may be treated 1. In reference to the Jews, who fulfilled the prophecy. (Here the first head might be introduced.) 2. In reference to ourselves. (Here the second entire head, and all the Application, would come in easily.)—If the subject have no immediate reference to the passion week, I would rather recommend this mode of treating it.].
THE prophet, under the character of a shepherd, is declaring what reception he had met with from the flock committed to his charge, and what judgments awaited them for their treatment of him. Extremely beautiful and grand is the address at the beginning of the chapter, where he calls on all orders of the Jewish community to prepare for the sentence that was gone forth against them [Note: Zec_11:1-3; Zec_11:6.], — — — and threatens to abandon them to their fate [Note: Zec_11:9.]. He then takes two staves or wands, one of which he called Beauty, and the other, Bands; and in their presence cut asunder the one that was designated by the name of Beauty, in order to intimate, that their whole ecclesiastical polity, which was the beauty and glory of the whole world, should be dissolved [Note: Zec_11:10.]. Obscure as this intimation was, it was understood by the poor, the humble, and the pious, who trembled at the voice of the Lord [Note: Zec_11:11.]. The other stick, named Bands, represented the civil polity of the Jews: and before he proceeded to cut asunder that also, and to declare the utter destruction of the whole nation, he made one more effort in their favour, and desired the chief priests and elders to signify their regard for his services by such a pecuniary tender as they deemed adequate to their value. They, in compliance with this demand, weighed out to him thirty pieces of silver, the price of a common slave [Note: Exo_21:32.]. Upon this, the Lord, full of indignation against them for so undervaluing his richest mercies, ordered the prophet to cast the money to a potter who happened to be in the temple, and then to cut asunder the other staff, in token of his giving them up to intestine commotions and to utter destruction [Note: Zec_11:13-14.].
But the whole of this transaction had respect also to other times, and other circumstances; and must be understood,
As a prophetic intimation—
The prophet was a type of that great and good Shepherd, who was in due time to come into the world, and “to lay down his life for the sheep:” and the treatment which he received, was typical of what should afterwards be accomplished by the Jews of later days in reference to their Messiah.
How exactly it was accomplished, the New Testament will inform us—
[When Judas conceived the design of betraying his Lord, he bargained with the chief priests, who offered him this precise sum, thirty pieces of silver, which he took accordingly, as the price of the Redeemer’s blood [Note: Mat_26:14-16.]. After he had betrayed his Lord, he went to return them their money: and finding that they would not regard his overtures, he cast down the money in the temple, and went and hanged himself. And what did they with the money? They would not put it into the treasury, because it was the price of blood; but, after consultation had, they bought with it a potter’s field, to bury strangers in: and thus, as an inspired Apostle informs us, fulfilled what had so many hundred years before been predicted concerning them [Note: Mat_27:3-10.].]
From this minute accomplishment of it we derive most important instruction—
[Mark how many circumstances in this extraordinary transaction concurred to fulfil the prophecy: The person whose services were so valued; the good Shepherd. The price fixed; thirty pieces of silver. The application of the money; given to a potter. The spot where the transaction took place; the temple of the Lord. The persons chiefly concerned in it; the priests and elders. All this was predicted, in order to attest the truth of Christ’s Messiahship. And was there any concert, think you, to fulfil the prophecy? Did Judas and the chief priests commune together, to prove beyond a possibility of doubt that Jesus was the person to whom all the law and the prophets bare witness as the Saviour of the world? Behold then, from one proof out of a hundred, on how firm a basis our faith is fixed!
Nor is the accomplishment of this prophecy instructive only as confirming our faith: it goes much farther, and gives us an insight into all God’s dispensations, whether of providence or grace.
God has ordered every thing, both in heaven and earth, both in time and eternity. But are men therefore to be considered as mere passive instruments in his hands? No: they are free agents in all that they do. The chief priests sought only the gratification of their own malice, as Judas did of his own covetous desires: neither the one nor the other acted from any impulse but of their own hearts. The spot where the transaction took place, the presence of a potter, the circumstance of his having a field of the precise value to sell, with various other circumstances, were all, as we should call them, accidental: but God foresaw all, and fore-ordained to accomplish his own will by means of all. And this shews us how God’s decrees respecting the salvation of his people are accomplished. Men are not at all the less free because of his decrees; nor are the decrees of God the less certain because of man’s free agency. There are ten thousand minute and accidental circumstances, as we should call them, necessary, as links in the chain of God’s purposes; but not one shall be wanting; not one shall fail; nor shall one jot or tittle of God’s word ever pass away. The responsibility of man will be precisely the same as if God had made no decrees: and the termination of events will be the same, as if God himself had produced them without the agency of man. With respect to man, all is uncertain: but with respect to God, all is as fixed, as if it were already done: “His counsel shall stand: and he will do all his will.” Deep as these truths are, they are not at all inconsistent with each other: and if men will only mark in what way the prophecies have been fulfilled, they will have a key to all the difficulties which have embarrassed, and incensed against each other, the whole Christian world.]
But the transaction in our text must be yet further viewed,
As an emblematic act—
It was foretold by Isaiah, that the Messiah should be “despised and rejected of men [Note: Isa_53:2-3.].” But was it by the men of one generation only that he was to be so treated? No; but by men of every nation, and of every age. It is indeed humiliating to think that the prophecy in our text has been fulfilled in us: but it is not more humiliating than true. Consider,
What we have done to obtain an interest in Christ—
[After the things of this world we have burned with most intense desire: pleasure, riches, honour, have been in such request, that no measure of attainment of them could ever satisfy us: but after the knowledge of Christ we have felt no such longings: a small measure would satisfy us at any time: and we could be quite content to leave it in doubt whether he were our friend or not. Anxieties and disappointments in abundance we have felt in relation to earthly things; but not in reference to him; because it has been a matter of indifference to us, whether we possessed an interest in him or not. For earthly things we could consume the midnight oil, or encounter perils and fatigues: but an hour spent in prayer, in our secret chamber, has been a labour too irksome for us to endure. Whole years have passed; and not a single day been devoted by us to fasting and prayer for the obtaining of his salvation. Such a price as this has appeared an unreasonable demand; nor could we ever be prevailed upon to pay it: a faint wish, or formal service, has been the full amount of the estimate which we have set on His love. How justly then may God reject us with indignation, saying, “A goodly price truly is this at which I have been prized of you!”]
What we have been willing to suffer for him—
[Great are the sacrifices which we have made for the poor vanities of time and sense: but what have we sacrificed for the Lord? Paul counted not his life dear to him, so that he might but honour and glorify his Lord: but we have felt no such constraining sense of his excellency, no such disposition to part with all for him. An interest equivalent to the purchase of a potter’s field has been at any time a sufficient barrier in our way to obstruct our progress, and prevent us from confessing him openly before men. It is really grievous to think how little we have been willing to bear for him. A frown, a threat, an ignominious name, have been quite sufficient to intimidate us; when, if we had valued Christ aright, ten thousand worlds would, in comparison of him, have weighed no more with us than the dust upon the balance.]
What efforts we have made for promoting his glory in the world—
[The Apostles and primitive Christians counted not their lives dear to them, so that they might but diffuse the knowledge of his salvation. And thus it should be with us. Our hearts should be ever intent on that object: we should never lose sight of it: we should live altogether for it. But, alas! how inactive have we been in his service! We have seen millions perishing for lack of knowledge, and used scarcely any means for their instruction. We have seen the kingdom of Christ invaded and usurped by the prince of darkness, and put forth no efforts to bring it to its rightful Owner. Say, would it have been thus, if we had valued him as we ought? Would the advancement of his glory have been so light a matter in our eyes, if we had formed a just estimate of his kingdom and glory? Surely God has had too much reason to cast this reflection upon us, “A goodly price it was that I was prized at by them.” And all our worthless services he may well cast away with indignation, as unworthy his acceptance, and fit only for the purchase of a potter’s field.]
Those who are indifferent about Christ—
[Can it be so, that there should be any found of this description? Alas! they constitute the great mass, not of the heathens only, but of those who name the name of Christ. But will it be so always? Will it be so when you get into the eternal world? You can sleep now like the foolish virgins: but will you not in that day, when excluded from the marriage feast, cry, “Lord, Lord, open unto us?” Yes: you will then at least form a correct estimate, if you will not now: but I pray God you may learn to do it now, whilst it may be available for your good, and not wait till you shall know his value only by your loss. Better to know him now by the manifestations of his love, than to know him then by the terrors of his avenging arm.]
Those who desire to obtain an interest in him—
[Be ready to pay the price which your God demands. The wise merchant, when he has found this pearl of great price, will sell all to procure it. And this is what our blessed Lord himself requires at your hands. You must “forsake all, and follow him:” you must not love father or mother more than him. You must even “hate father and mother, yea, and your own life also,” in comparison of him. He must have no rival in your estimation. There must be nothing which you will not do for him; nothing which you will not sacrifice. Be not like the Rich Youth, who renounced him rather than his wealth. The greater the sacrifices you make, the more must you account them grounds only of self-congratulation, and of joy [Note: Php_2:17.]. O beg of God the Spirit to reveal him in your hearts; and so to make his glory pass before your eyes, that you may henceforth have no wish but to enjoy his presence, and to glorify his name!]
Those who profess that they do already possess this inestimable treasure—
[I can have no doubt but that there are many of this description here present: and I greatly rejoice that the Lord Jesus Christ is valued amongst us in some measure as he ought to be. But I tremble to think what changes may yet be wrought even in the most hopeful amongst us. Who that had seen the piety of Demas, would have expected such an issue of it as we read of: “Demas hath forsaken us, having loved this present world [Note: 2Ti_4:10.].” Who that had beheld the Galatian converts, so full of love to the Apostles, that they would have “plucked out their own eyes, and given them to him,” would have expected to find them afterwards so “bewitched” through the influence of false teachers, that they “accounted him their enemy for telling them the truth [Note: Gal_3:1; Gal_4:15-16.]?” But St.Paul, in all his epistles, complains, as St. Peter does also, that, as there had been “false prophets in former ages, so were there in their days false teachers, who brought in damnable heresies, and prevailed on many to follow their pernicious ways [Note: 1Ti_4:11. 2Pe_2:1-2.].” We read of “whole families being subverted and turned from the faith [Note: Tit_1:10-11.];” some through the instrumentality of Judaizing teachers, who blended with the Gospel the observance of the Mosaic rites [Note: Gal_2:14.]; and others, through the delusive statements of self-conceited philosophers, who, by their specious refinements, despoiled Christianity of all its simplicity and glory [Note: Col_2:8.]. And as then multitudes were “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,” so it is now; as, indeed, we have been taught to expect it would be in these latter days. St. Paul says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables [Note: 2Ti_4:3-4. Mark here, 1. The principle, “after their own lusts.” 2. The habit of mind, “itching ears,” that love to be scratched. See the Greek. 3. The conduct, “heaping to themselves teachers.” 4. The effect, “turning from the truth to fables.” What an accurate and awful picture is here!] — — — And what is the effect of this amongst us? it is precisely the same as in the Apostle’s days; the minds of the simple are distracted; and instead of hearing, in every place, the praises of our adorable Redeemer, we hear of little but a “doting about questions and strifes of words;” and see little, but envy, and strife, and railing, and evil surmisings, and perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds [Note: 1Ti_6:4-5.].” And this is the price at which our blessed Lord is prized by us! Any new opinion, or fond conceit, has more attraction for us, than the contemplation of his love, and the adoring of his grace! Dear Brethren, “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ: but I fear lest, by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve, through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ [Note: 2Co_11:2-3.].” Be on your guard, I pray you, against his devices. He can now, as well as formerly, “transform himself into an angel of light, and make his ministers to appear as the ministers of righteousness [Note: 2Co_11:13-15.].” But I appeal to all, whether the listening to “questions and strifes of words” does not divert the mind from Christ, and indispose the soul for communion with him. Then, I say, have a higher regard for Christ than to run after novelties, which only draw you from him. It is but little that you can know of him, how intent soever your minds may be upon him; and but little that you can do to requite his love, how devoted soever you may be to his service. Value him then as you ought; love him as you ought; serve him as you ought: let “all created things be as dung” in your estimation in comparison of him [Note: Php_3:8.]: and endeavour now to keep your mind engaged, as it will to all eternity be occupied in heaven, in praising and magnifying him, who “loved you, and washed you from your sins in his own blood [Note: Rev_1:5-6.].”
Take care that you be not robbed of it. Satan will leave nothing undone to prevail against you. How he has prevailed over others, let the history of Demas inform you. Do not imagine, that because the world is as nothing to you now, it will always appear so vain and worthless. No: a change of circumstances often produces a change of views and habits. What changes may await you, God alone knows: but O! pray that there may never be a change in your regards for Christ, unless indeed that he may be increasingly precious in your eyes, and that your devotion to him may be more entire. And be assured that in the eternal world it will be no grief to you that you did too much for him, or suffered too much for him. Let it be to you “Christ to live; and it will in due time be gain to die.”]