Somewhere along the line, this statement was made: “People always elect the government they deserve.” It certainly rings a bell of truth. If left to ourselves, we will always put leaders in place who match and affirm our own values. Even under the authority of God, there comes a point where He turns people over to their own desires and allows them their destructive autonomy.
The shepherds of Israel, her leaders, were taking advantage of the people for their own power and profit (Zechariah 11:5). Instead of leading the people to God, they exploited them to achieve their own wicked ends. So God invokes Zechariah to act the part of their shepherd with two staffs in hand—one to represent the covenant, and the other, the union between Judah and Israel (v.7).
In a display of stubbornness, the flock reveals that the problem wasn’t simply with their leadership. The people refused to be led by anyone or anything but their own wickedness. Bad shepherds were removed, and faithful shepherds labored, but the people wouldn’t have it. They wouldn’t have the Lord lead them. Zechariah shows God’s own frustration by breaking the staffs representing God’s favor and their unity as a people (vv.10,14). Even the wages that were given to Zechariah for pastoring the people were an insult; they paid him what they would have paid a slave. The leadership of God was cheap to His people. The result was clear: God would give Israel over to “a foolish shepherd… who will not care for those who are perishing, and he will not seek the lost or heal the broken. He will not sustain the healthy, but he will devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off their hooves” (vv.15–16).
This message should awaken us today; either we will humble ourselves to the voice of Jesus, the “Good Shepherd,” and follow Him, or we will refuse God’s mercy toward us and choose to follow whatever leader we want—one that will affirm and compound our waywardness. Make no mistake, there is no third way. It’s either embracing God’s grace for us in Christ and following Jesus, or rejecting God’s provision and facing the reality of being handed over to our destructive desires.
While it may ring true that people always elect the government they deserve, it is the sheer grace and mercy of God that He provides a better “government” for us in Christ. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, grants eternal life to all those who humble themselves and place their trust in Him. He gives the deepest security to those who rest in His hand (John 10:28). We certainly do not deserve the gracious leadership and care of Jesus, but by God’s mercy, we don’t have to experience the curse of abusive shepherds. We are free to enjoy the delightful leadership of the only Shepherd who will lead us to green pastures of eternal life.
Written by Jeremy Writebol