God loves word pictures. Jesus showed this through his parables. You see this throughout the prophets. And in this chapter, we see yet another example of this.
It starts with a picture of the devastation of Israel represented by the falling of the forests and trees. From the forest of Lebanon (which is also linked by rabbis with the second temple that was built in Ezra’s time, which was built of cedars from Lebanon) to the oaks of Bashan (a land east of the Jordan, which had been taken over by the Israelites after the king of that land, Og, had attacked them) to the thickets of the Jordan, all would fall and be ruined.
Why? The answer is given in the rest of the chapter. The people had rejected their Messiah. Zechariah, apparently took on the role of a shepherd to illustrate all of this to the people.
God told him to take charge of a flock marked for slaughter, which represented Israel. They were marked for judgment because they had rejected God. This judgment is probably seen in the intertestamental period all the way down through the Roman empire.
And then in the midst of this, appears the Messiah, as represented by Zechariah. He comes wielding to staffs, “Favor” referring to God’s favor on the people, and “Union” representing the unity of Israel as a nation. He gets rid of the bad shepherds that had hurt the flock, (perhaps the false prophets, priests, and wicked kings that Israel had had), and looks after the flock, especially the oppressed.
But his flock detests him, and so he lets them go their own way. He takes away his favor from them, and the result is the destruction of the nation under Titus in A.D. 70.
In pay for his services, he is paid 30 pieces of silver, the price for a slave, and considered a trifling amount (when it says “a handsome price,” it’s said sarcastically). This was then thrown to the potter at the house of the Lord.
All of this, of course, points to the betrayal of Jesus and how he was sold for 30 pieces of silver, and how that silver was used to buy a potter’s field that was used for a burial ground.
The unity of the nation was thus shattered, and not restored until the 20th century. And the time will come, when another false shepherd will arise who cares nothing for the flock. This probably refers to Antichrist, who will eventually be cast down and punished for his treatment of Israel.
In this passage, we see not only the results of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah, our Savior, but what happens when we do so.
God reached down to us through Jesus to save us from Satan’s oppression. But if we reject him, he will leave us to the consequences of our sin, and judgment will come. We will not know his favor, nor the strength that comes from the unity of his people. Instead, there will only be destruction and death.
The writer of Hebrews puts it this way,
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)