Zec_13:7. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
THIS is generally thought to be the beginning of a distinct prophecy: yet it seems not only to be connected with, but in a measure to arise out of, the preceding context. The connexion, it is true, is not obvious: but it must be remembered, that this is the way in which some of the most important predictions in all the Scriptures are introduced. Take, for instance, the prophecy that Christ should be born of a pure virgin; a more wonderful event than which is not predicted in all the inspired volume: there was no necessary connexion between that, and the destruction of the ten tribes; nor between that, and the obstinate incredulity of Ahab: yet, on Ahab’s declining to ask a sign that the deliverance promised to Judah should speedily be accomplished, the Lord gave him this sign; “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [Note: Isa_7:10-14.].” In that prophecy, the event predicted appeared wholly foreign to the subject that was in hand: but in the prophecy before us it is not so. The chapter begins with a plain declaration, that in due time Christ, by the shedding of his blood upon the cross, should open unto mankind “a fountain to wash them from sin and uncleanness.” It then goes on to say, that by him idolatry should be destroyed; and that both men and women, if tempted to idolatry by their own children, should immediately execute judgment upon them, and thrust them through with a sword or dart [Note: This was agreeable to the law of Moses, Deu_13:6-10.]: and that so general should be men’s abhorrence of idolatry, that those who had been disposed towards it, and had even marked their bodies in honour of their idols, should deny their having ever felt any disposition towards it, and should ascribe the marks that were on their flesh to some “wounds which they had received, either accidentally, or for some particular purpose, in the house of their friends.”
Then in our text God says, As the false prophet shall be slain by his own father for endeavouring to turn you from God, so shall the true prophet be slain by his father in order to turn you to God: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.”
In discoursing on these words we shall consider,
The commission given to Jehovah’s sword—
It is bidden to “awake and smite:” but here two questions arise;
Whom was it to smite?
[It was assuredly the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone answers to the character here described. He is the Shepherd of Israel,” appointed to that office by God himself [Note: Psa_80:1. Eze_34:23.]. He designates himself by that very name, and as the person to be smitten under that very character [Note: Joh_10:11.]. Moreover, he alone can be called “Jehovahapos;s fellow:” for he was God as well as man [Note: Joh_1:1.], even the true God [Note: 1Jn_5:20.], the mighty God [Note: Isa_9:6.], altogether One with the Father himself [Note: Joh_10:30.], “God over all, blessed for ever;” and, being-God in his own nature, and therefore incapable of suffering, he assumed our nature on purpose that he might suffer [Note: Php_2:6-8.].]
In whose hand was it to inflict the stroke?
[It was the Father himself who was to wield it, even he who here calls upon it to arise and smite. True it was that men and devils were the more immediate agents [Note: Luk_22:53.]; but they were only instruments in the Father’s hands: “they could have had no power at all against him, if it had not been given them from above.” They were willing agents, no doubt, and executed what their own malignant dispositions dictated: but God overruled their designs for the accomplishment of his own eternal purposes [Note: Act_2:23; Act_4:37.]. There was not one thing done by them which had not been foretold; nor one thing predicted, which they did not unwittingly and exactly perform [Note: Joh_19:28; Joh_19:30.].
But even without the intervention either of men or devils, the Father himself smote him. What was it but a sense of God’s wrath upon his soul that made him sweat great drops of blood in the garden? It was the Father himself who put that bitter cup into his hands. Upon the cross too, when Jesus uttered no complaints respecting inferior agents, he bitterly bewailed the hidings of his Father’s face: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Thus was verified that awful prediction of the prophet, “It pleased the Lord, even Jehovah himself, to bruise him [Note: Isa_53:10.].”]
Let us next inquire into,
The grounds and reasons of this commission—
It was the Father’s purpose to exercise mercy towards our fallen race: but he would do it in a way that should be consistent with his own perfections. Hence he gave us his only-begotten Son to be our substitute and surety: and against him, when standing in that capacity, he called forth the sword;
To shew his indignation against sin—
[We presume not to say what God might have done, if it had pleased him: but we are sure that “it became him, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings [Note: Heb_2:11.].” As the Moral Governor of the Universe, it became him to vindicate the honour of his broken law, and to mark his utter abhorrence of iniquity: and this he did more strongly and effectually in smiting his only-begotten Son, than if he had smitten the whole human race. As for the children of men, they are but worms of the earth, far inferior to the angels that fell: but Christ was his co-equal, co-eternal Son, his fellow, his equal. O what an evil must sin be, when God would not suffer it to pass unpunished even in the person of his own Son, on whom it was found only by imputation! We may be well assured, that, on whomsoever it be found in the last day, it will be visited with “wrath to the uttermost.”]
To reconcile justice with mercy in the salvation of sinners—
[Had sin been pardoned without any atonement, the claims of justice must have been superseded. But God would not exalt mercy at the expense of justice; and therefore he devised a way of satisfying the demands of justice, whilst he listened with complacency to the voice of mercy. “He laid our iniquities upon” his only dear Son, and exacted of him the debt which had been incurred by us: and that debt he paid to the uttermost farthing; so that justice itself has nothing more to require of us, provided only we plead what Christ has done and suffered in our behalf. Thus has God become “a just God and a Saviour,” or, as St. Paul expresses it, he is “just, and yet the justifier of them that believe in Jesus.”]
Such being the reasons for this mysterious commission, we proceed to notice,
The effects and consequences of it—
The immediate effect was the scattering of our Lord’s disciples—
[One would have thought that our Lord’s more intimate disciples, who for above three years had heard all his discourses, and seen all his miracles, would have firmly adhered to him, even to the end; more especially as they had promised, in the most solemn manner, to follow him, even unto death: but God, who knew what was in man, foretold that they would shamefully desert him in the hour of trial: yea, our Lord himself forewarned his disciples that they would forsake him, and thereby fulfil the prophecy in our text [Note: Mat_26:31.]: and the event, alas! corresponded with these predictions: the “Shepherd being smitten, the sheep were immediately scattered abroad;” “they all forsook him and fled [Note: Mat_26:56.].” What a poignancy must this circumstance have given to all the other wounds inflicted on our Lord! Where were all the myriads whom he had miraculously healed? Where were those whom he had raised from the dead? Were they all afraid to own him? Was not so much as one found to stand forth in his defence, or even to speak a word in his behalf? No: all were panic-struck and mute. Hear how our blessed Lord himself complains of this, as a bitter aggravation of his sorrows [Note: Psa_69:20; Psa_142:4.] — — — But utter dereliction, unmitigated sorrows, were our desert; and he, as our substitute, endured it all in our behalf.]
The ultimate effect was their restoration and recovery—
[This is intimated in the last clause of our text. By “turning his hand upon his little ones,” is meant, that he would accomplish upon them all his merciful designs, recovering them from their fears, and restoring them to the Divine favour [Note: Compare Isa_1:25.]. This he did as soon as ever he was risen from the dead: he did not even except Peter, who had so shamefully denied him with oaths and curses [Note: Mar_16:7. Joh_20:17.]. On the day of Pentecost he so “strengthened his little ones,” that they were henceforth no more intimidated, but boldly confessed him before all the rulers of their nation, and braved death in all its most tremendous forms, for the honour of his name. Similar effects were instantly produced on thousands of his followers: and to this hour is the same divine energy communicated to the feeblest of his people: though but “a little flock,” they fear not the threats of any adversaries, because they know that it “is the Father’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom;” and, that they shall be “more than conquerors through Him that loved them.”
Such were intended to be the effects of our Redeemer’s death: “He suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God:” and to God he will bring us; so that “of those whom the Father hath given him, not one shall be lost.”]
Let us take occasion from this prophecy,
To admire the love of God the Father—
[When God called to his sword to “awake and smite,” whom should we suppose to be the objects of his vengeance? Should we not conclude of course that we were to be the monuments of his wrath? we, towards whom he had so long exercised forbearance, and who had so obstinately persisted in our rebellion? Yes, methinks God would say, “Sword, go and smite those my incorrigible enemies; go and smite them to their inmost soul.” But, behold, he sends his Son, “his fellow,” and directs the sword to execute vengeance upon him, as our substitute! We wonder not so much that the Jews should cry out, “Spare not this man, but Barabbas:” but that Jehovah should give his direction to his sword, “Spare not my dear Son, my fellow, but Barabbas,” is truly wonderful. Yet this, in effect, he did say: ‘Spare the vilest of the human race, even though they be robbers and murderers; but “smite my Son, my fellow,” and spare not him, in order that thou mayest spare them.’ O wondrous love! Who can estimate it? What tongue can utter it? What imagination can conceive it? Well is it said, “God so loved the world, as to give his only-begotten Son:” but the heights and depths of that love are unsearchable, either by men or angels.]
To follow the steps of the good Shepherd—
[Jesus, Jehovah’s fellow, is our shepherd; and we, as sheep of his pasture, are under his protection. Let us then, however weak in ourselves, despise the threats of all our enemies. Let us never for a moment indulge the fear of man, or entertain a thought of forsaking him who has laid down his life for us. Let us consider our obligations to him: let us consider them, till we feel our whole souls inflamed with love to him; and, under the constraining influence of his love, let us “follow him without the camp, bearing his reproach,” and “rejoicing, if we are counted worthy to suffer shame, or even death itself, for his sake.” Let us “know in whom we have believed;” and say with David, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want;” nor “will I fear what man can do unto me.”]
To seek the effectual influence of his grace—
[What shall we not be able to do, if “he turn his hand upon us for good?” Could Paul say, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthened me?” so then may we say. He was by nature no stronger than the weakest amongst us: and the weakest of us, by grace, may be as strong as he: “Christ’s strength shall be perfected in our weakness,” as it was in his. Let our eyes then be unto Jesus; that, as he has been “the author, so also he may be the finisher, of our faith.” Let our expectations from him be enlarged: and, whatever our difficulties be, let us remember, that “our Redeemer is mighty,” is almighty; and that he has pledged himself to us, that “none shall ever pluck us out of his hands.”]