Thus said the LORD my God: "Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter.”
This chapter is a difficult one to understand. There are metaphors and symbols within a large extended parable. Zechariah is asked to shepherd some stubborn sheep in the midst of some careless, foolish fellow-shepherds. There is no literal event being talked about. It is very hard to draw lines of interpretation from this complicated parable. Interpreters are all over the board on what is going on in this passage. But one thing is clear: God may call good people to work in difficult, dangerous, even unfruitful fields of ministry. Zechariah experiences no “success” in this endeavor, at least in terms of the response of the “sheep” and the “shepherds”. Both go bad and leave him with nothing but anger and anguish at his involvement with them (Zechariah 11:8-9). About fifteen years ago, I know I was there brutally for about six months. I was not a good guy at that time. It ain’t any fun!
I think that in terms of staying within the broader context of the book of Zechariah, it is good to see the prophet “acting out” the role of the Messiah and his eventual rejection. This is the interpretation that John MacArthur proposes for this chapter, and as I look at it further, it fits. The Messiah’s rejection is part of Old Testament prophecy (Daniel 9:26-27). And this does fit the way in which Jesus Himself predicted His rejection and the subsequent destruction that would befall Jerusalem at the destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:1-2). The final puzzle piece that fits this is the whole thirty pieces of silver description here (Zechariah 11:12). The New Testament gospel writers pick up on this as the blood price for Jesus with the prophetic details emphasized (Matthew 26:14-16).
Jesus would be called to difficult ministry. And he would ultimately be rejected by those to whom He came. The Roman authorities that carried out His execution at the desire of those shepherds in Israel that had rejected Him would later complete their oppressive rule by destroying Jerusalem and the temple worship a generation after Jesus’ death and resurrection. And Zechariah acted out the key points in this drama as the exiles returned from Babylon centuries before these events.