"And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. 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." (Zechariah 13:6-7.)
Zechariah is a book with many figures and types in it. The language here, however, is very plain. There is very little question that this is a prophesy of the redemptive work of Jesus our Lord. You can see in verse 6 that someone asks the question, "What are these wounds in thine hands?" And it gives the answer, "Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends." Then in verse 7 another voice is heard to speak to a sword, instructing the sword to awake. The sword is to awake against his shepherd, "Against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow." There is no question as to who is speaking here because it says, "Saith the Lord of hosts.'' And then the direct command, "Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." Then the results of this, "And I will turn mine hand upon the little ones."
In the 6th verse our Saviour is speaking, "These wounds are the wounds that I received in the house of my friends." Whoever asked the question regarding the wounds could see there were wounds in His hands. They were not there before Jesus was nailed to the tree, so this must be a question asked after His resurrection. After His resurrection we know that He instructed Thomas to reach forth his hand, and he was enabled to see with his own eyes that Jesus had been pierced by nails in His hands and feet and a spear had entered into His side.
These were wounds that he received, not from His enemies, but He was wounded in the house of His friends. We understand His friends to be His family, His church, His people. It is for them that He came to receive the wounds.
"What are these wounds?" A wound is something that we generally feel will heal and repair, and He answers, "I was wounded in the house of my friends." Bear that in mind as you look at the 7th verse. That which afflicted Him in the house of His friends was called a wound. His hands were wounded, as were His feet, and His side, and upon His head a crown of thorns was pressed down upon it and that was certainly wounded, as well. Then a command is issued, unlike any that you would expect to hear. The command is to the sword, "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd." Note this well. The Lord of Hosts speaks to a sword, instructing it to awake! We have just read that He was wounded in the house of His friends. You would think that if God's ways were as our ways, that He would instruct the sword to smite those who wounded His well Beloved Son. We might well have called upon the sword this way; "Awake O sword, and smite those vicious people. Cut them off." That would not harmonize with the language, however, of Daniel, where he prophesied that the Messiah must be cut off, but not for Himself. "Awake, O sword against my shepherd;" not for the shepherd, or in His defense, but against Him. And, "Against the man that is my fellow."
Look at the word "fellow" and think of it in our common usage. Do we not often speak about the fellowship in the church being love and sweet communion? Probably the most correct interpretation of the word "fellow" would be mine equal. Equal! "Against the man that is mine equal, saith the Lord." "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd." "Smite the shepherd."
There is no question about the summons here. God in His infinite wisdom has seen fit to call forth the slumbering sword to awaken. The word "awake" there leads us to feel that until this time the sword had no authority to act upon the man which was God's fellow, or against His shepherd. Until the appointed time, God did not summons the sword. But when He does, the expression is used very forcefully, "Awake!" The sleeping sword is now brought forth, and brandished for the purpose of smiting the shepherd. Many people have had hard feelings in reading the New Testament when they see the cruel way in which Judas betrayed the Saviour - seeing the evil mob with hatred as they came out to Him at night in the garden; the despicable manner in which Caiaphas, the High Priest, treated our Lord; and then reading of Herod and his soldiers abusing Him. Pontius Pilate, in his pompous hypocrisy, washes his hands and tells them, "I'm innocent." Then observe the Roman soldiers as they drive the nails in Him, fastening Him to the tree. There must be hard thoughts about what wicked and evil people they were. We know that if the grace of God has not touched our hearts, we are equally as evil as they were, but we would pull the sword as quickly as Peter did, and prepare for war.
You will recall that night the mob came, and the first thing Peter could think of was the sword. To Peter's way of thinking, they could not do this. He drew the sword and cut off the ear of one there in the crowd, and as the Lord restored the man's ear, He told Peter to put up the sword. Peter knew little about the vengeance of God, but he would soon learn. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." There is more contained in that verse of scripture than just a message to us that God will take care of our enemies. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." God will take care of the debts, and resolve them as it please Him. Our Lord was nailed to the tree, true enough; the wicked hands of the Romans and the mob literally nailed Him, and by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God these men with wicked hands did this. But our Lord in prophesy says that He was wounded in the house of His friends. Now look at that carefully. We don't see in the text where His friends did it, but that's where He says He was wounded. He had come from the world of glory and was abiding in their house, and they fearfully abandoned Him and He was wounded.
Will you notice that when our Lord was nailed to the tree there was nothing in the scripture that says that he cried out. There was no agonizing sighs, or groans, rather as the Prophet Isaiah says, "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." These were nothing more than wounds that He was receiving in the house of his friends. Our Lord opened not His mouth. You will go back, however, to the night before in the garden, and when the sword was about to be awakened over Him, He said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." We preceive that this was not nearly so much the physical sufferings that our Lord was preparing to endure, but the soul suffering. It was not the nails and the sword or the spear that our Lord was dreading, for all men must die in some fashion, but rather it was the sword of God's justice. That is what this sword was - "Awake Oh sword," the sword of God's holy, perfect, pure, and everlasting justice was now about to be brought into action. Who could summons it? Pilate couldn't do it! Herod couldn't! Only God could summons the sword. The sword has been asleep.
We learn from this that it was a lively, and a living sword, however. For as the scripture says, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." May we tell you here that Jesus Christ fell into the hands of the living God. He fell there for His friends. If He would, by grace, show us what a narrow escape we have had, we would be happier in soul than before such knowledge. The appointed time had come. There had always been the sword. This was not something new that was gotten up by God. The sword had always been whetted and prepared. It was not rusty. It was not dulled through the ages. The sword was plenty sharp and fully prepared. It was a holy sword, and it belonged to God, and God summonsed it. "Awake, Oh sword."
We see the sword the first time in the Bible when God drove man out of the garden. He put there a flaming sword. What did He put it there for? "To keep the way of the tree of life." The flaming sword was first seen in the garden; was set there by appointment, and would remain there until such time as God would call it forth, and all His holy vengeance fulfill the certain promise that He made to Adam, "In the day that thou eatest, thou shalt surely die." The sentence would be executed. We see the sword also in the end of the Word of God, the book of Revelation. The last time the sword is mentioned is when the beast and the false prophet were thrown into the lake of fire. "And the reminent was slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth, and all fowls were filled with their flesh." That's the last execution of the enemies of God, and they are executed by the sword; by the sword that proceeded out of the mouth of the mighty Conqueror, Jesus Christ, who rides upon the white horse in absolute conquest and victory and universal government.
It was halfway between the first mention of the sword of God in the book of Genesis and the sword of God in the book of Revelation, almost to the day, (three thousand years between the two) that David in these words (prophetic of our Lord hanging on the tree) cries out and says, "Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog." (Psa. 22:20) You will observe that in verse 16 of this same chapter he has just said, "For dogs have compassed me, the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me; they have pierced my hands and my feet." Our Lord did not ask to be delivered from the piercing of His hands and His feet, but He did say, "Deliver my soul from the sword." Similar language to this is what our Lord meant when He said to the Father in prayer, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." The cup which our Saviour was about to drink was the cup of God's indignation and wrath.
Symbolically, He was not to take an actual cup. Neither was He actually about to be run through with a literal sword. This is descriptive language, or figurative speech. The cup that He drank from and the sword that He sought to be delivered from was one and the same - the execution of God's everlasting judgment upon sinners. We can rest assured of this; when God said, "Awake, Oh sword," it would certainly come into play. "Awake, Oh sword against my shepherd." Is this not what the Lord said in this same Psalm 22, just quoted from, when He cried, "My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me." (Vs. 1) The Father was now against the Shepherd. Isn't it a tale of marvel and wonder that God would use such language, "Against my shepherd." The 23rd Psalm, those beautiful and lovely words of David, says, "The Lord is my shepherd." And yet God the Father said that He was His shepherd, too. God looks at Him in ownership, "He is my shepherd." He is the shepherd that I have sent, the everlasting and good shepherd; the shepherd of the sheep. But isn't it an amazing thing to see that the one who was sent to be shepherd was wounded in the house of His friends, of which David was a part? And He was struck with the sword of the judgment of His Father, though both parties had called Him, "My shepherd," and afflicted Him. He was afflicted because of His friends who had sinned, and He was afflicted because of His Father who could countenance no sin. (He came to bear up all our sins.)
"Against my shepherd." No language in the world is like this, "Against my shepherd." God would turn His back upon Him and summons His justice, and His judgment, and His holiness, and compel it to smite Him.
"And against the man." It is a wonder of wonders that continually in the prophesies and the fulfillment of the same we see Jesus as a Man. It was imperative that He be a Man. If all the angels in heaven had been smitten by the sword, it wouldn't redeem a sinner. If all the sinners who are considered "the house of his Mends" were smitten, it would do them no good. But a man - a man - must come and die as a man.
Much has been said about that, and we will not go into that point, but observe that he twice said, "Against my shepherd, and against the man." There is one thing of great importance to see, ''Against the man that is my fellow; "The man that is my equal." You cannot even begin to see the truth of salvation by grace unless you can see that Jesus was the equal of God. He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, for He was equal with God. (Phil. 2:6) We see in the very beginning of creation where the scripture says, "All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made." We see that in the construction of the first man, Adam, he was equal with the Father, "His fellow." "Let us make man after our image." Not in my image, but "Let us," "After our."
He was equal with God in power. (Matt. 28:18) "All power is given unto me both in heaven and in earth." He was equal to God in will. "Not my will, but thine be done." "This is the father's will; of all that he has given me, I have lost nothing." He was equal with God in fulness, for the scriptures says, "He is the fulness of God." (Col. 2:9) He was equal to God in glory; equal to God in His sovereignty; equal to God in all things. The equality of existence between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost could not be denied. One in all things, and yet separate and distinct in personality.
God the Father from everlasting had purposed that His everlasting Son would have a bride, but before that bride could come to the home in heaven and there reside, before she could be presented in her royal robes, she had to be purified and washed, (as she had fallen in Adam) and God the Son came for that purpose to this earth, as a man. God the Holy Ghost, equal as the third person of the Triune God, instructs and teaches, and vitalizes and gives life to all of those that God has chosen from everlasting. It is no wonder, no slip of the pen, then that the Father says, "And against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Host."
Then the next verse, in language that can only be God's, "Smite the shepherd." Do you remember when Moses took the rod and smote the rock, and smote it the second time, and in so doing, he forfeited his right to enter into the Land of Canaan? Moses, being a figure of the Law, had done all he could do against the rock, which was Christ. (I Cor. 10:4) And now he had no more work to do, and Joshua must lead them into the Land of Promise, not Moses, the figure of the Law. Do you see then that the rock must be smitten? "Smite the shepherd."
How serious a blow is this that He must be smitten with? It is not possible for us to contrive in our minds an understanding of the depths of God's justice and judgment, but if you can perceive such language that is contained in the New Testament, such as "Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quinched;" "Where the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever;" "Cast alive into the lake of fire," and etc., you can get some little glimpse of the judgment that awaits all of those outside of Christ when this world shall be no more. All of those that shall be in Christ; all of those who have been called by the election of grace; all of those that make up His household, whose house He was wounded in, all of those who are His friends will escape that awful judgment. But upon what basis will they escape it? Consider this. When a sinner offends God, he has offended an eternal being. He couldn't in billions and billions of years in repentance and remorse and sufferings do so long enough to satisfy God's judgment. In an instant we sin against an infinite being. God will hold that against a sinner just as long as God exists unless there is some satisfaction rendered. How long do you think God will punish the wicked? By His word, it says everlasting punishment awaits them. These shall go away into everlasting punishment, in the lake of fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. Forever, and forever, and forever, they will be punished.
His elect, however, get off free! We say, they get off free! On what basis? On the basis that another received the fatal blow from this sword. Rather than God saying, Smite the wicked; smite the friends; smite the elect," He says, "Smite the shepherd!" "Smite the Shepherd!" When our Lord hung on the tree we don't hear of Him grieving, nor mourning, over the bodily afflictions.
Oh, what a grief and affliction it must have been that the everlasting sword of God's vengeance pierced Him thru.
When God's judgment in the form of this sword pierced our Lord and entered into His soul, it was an equal for the everlasting punishment due us. Every sin, every evil thought, every transgression, every crime that you and all the family of God have ever been guilty of, all together He had assumed as His own when the sword pierced Him. When He died there at the hands of wicked men, and in the house of His fellows; when He died an everlasting death; (if we may use the expression) when the sword of God's judgment pierced Him, God was punishing all of us in Him.
Let us ask you this. If this is so, if what we write this day, if what we think you believe is the truth, then is there anything that needs to be added to the wonderous plan of God's salvation? Would God raise the sword and say, "Smite the shepherd" and then come back to you at a later time and say there was a sin or two that you must account for and render payment? No, my dear readers. We set before you with boldness that Jesus paid the whole debt. The sword of justice fell upon Him and no one else. As the Shepherd of the sheep He solely was responsible for them. When all the vengeance of God fell, it fell upon Him, and not a one of His sheep ever received even a glancing blow of the sword of God's justice. It all was His and none of it was ours. "Smite the shepherd."
The language which follows has been greatly misunderstood. "And the sheep shall be scattered." Probably the initial fulfillment of that was when the sheep (His disciples) were scattered the night our Saviour was taken in the garden. Our Lord so quoted from this text in Matthew and Mark. However, there was another sense in which they were scattered. They were scattered to be regathered again. Up until this time the sheep were bound together under the curse. The sword of justice had just as much claim against them as the rest of the world because they were sinners equal with all the rest of the human race. There was no difference between them and the non-elect as regarded justice. When the stroke of justice fell upon Jesus, when the Shepherd was smitten, then the sheep were freed, and released, and were no longer bound up. Consequently, they being scattered over the world, then the amazing language follows, "And I will turn mine hand upon the little ones."
Oh, the glory of it all is that the whole thing was planned in the everlasting councils of God's love that He would smite the Shepherd, release the sheep, and then gather each one of them. And His language is so tender, "I will turn my hand again towards the little ones." All the little sheep, wherever they might be, all of those who were embraced in the everlasting council and covenant of God will be gathered up, one by one. God will turn His hand towards them. He will not send someone else after them. He will not send someone out to tell them, "You have an invitation, if you come now, you can be received in this great number which will make up heaven's host." Oh, no, a thousand times no! "And I will turn my hand upon the little ones."
Brethren, where did your salvation really begin? Oh, you say, it begins with the new birth. Not at all. Or you say, It begins when Christ died upon the cross. Not at all! You will have to go back to when God, in His eternal council, proposed to send the sword into the soul of Jesus. It was all planned. It was all prepared. There was not a detail left out. There were no contingencies. There was no possibility that things could run afoul somehow.
When Jesus came into the world, the scriptures already had Him declared as the Lamb slain - the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. For whom then would He die? Would He die for Himself? No! He was innocent. He died as the Shepherd, and He died as the man who was God's fellow. He died that the sheep might be released. He died that the sheep might be scattered. He died that the same sheep that would be scattered might be also gathered by God when He would turn His hand again toward the little ones. What an encouragement that ought to be to the elect family today. We need not worry, nor fear and fret about the welfare of those we love who do not seem to be in the grace and the love of God, who manifest no characteristics of a christian, for we know for a certainty that if they are one of His, if God has chosen them, if God has purposed to redeem them, before they leave this world He will turn His hand to them. He will gather His little ones - every one of them.
Would it be possible to believe that when this world is finished, when heaven is housed with God's family, there could be one missing, and someone inquire, "Where is that one?" Could that little sheep go to hell? Sooner God Himself could lie than one of His sheep not be gathered into the fold. "I will turn my hand upon the little ones."
When Jesus went up to the tree of the cross, God had already appointed Him to suffer, to bleed, and die in the place of all the sheep that would be scattered. Oh, the wounds, no doubt, were terrible. Those things that He was afflicted with at the hands of His friends, must have grieved Him sorely, and hurt Him physically. The agony would have been intense. But they were nothing, nothing, compared to the sword that would smite Him. Can you see the difference between the wounds and the smiting? Oh, the sword of justice pierced Him clean through. It didn't stop with His hands, His feet, and His side. It consumed his whole soul. Jesus suffered the everlasting and eternal agony that every one of the little sheep should have suffered there. And in a few hours time He suffered sufficiently that the eternal God His Father could be satisfied. "Smite the shepherd." "Smite the shepherd."
No, brethren, don't let anyone tell you that we nailed Jesus to the cross. It was for our sins He was nailed, true enough, but it was by God's eternal council and foreknowledge. The instruments were there that were supposed to be there. The sheep were set free. Our sins were certainly accounted to Him, but it was in order that He might carry our sins away, and all the burdens and griefs. And any human being who ever had eyes to see, spiritually, could read this in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, and could not possibly believe that the sheep had ever suffered a thing in order to bring about their eternal redemption. It has all been worked out.
Do you see the message here? Jesus suffered as a man. He suffered as the shepherd. He suffered from the wounds, but He suffered the utmost agony of the sword. Consider one further thing. The criminal being put to death may grieve over dying and agonize in dying, but if there is an ounce of honesty, he must admit that he has it coming. Jesus, however, was wounded as an innocent man, and as a perfect shepherd. and the sword of God's justice pierced Him through, not because He had done anything wrong, but because He had done everything right. Do you see that? It wasn't for anything wrong that Jesus had done, but it was because of all the right He had done. He was the only one who ever existed to qualify to receive the stroke of God's justice and survive it, because even God's justice could not require more than equity.
The only way the sword could smite Jesus was for Him to be a man. It had no claim against Him as God. And the only way it could have a claim against Him as a man was as a sinful man. And since He had no sins of His own, He assumed our place and substituted Himself for us, and then the sword of justice could be drawn. So all the while that Jesus walked upon this earth as the godly perfect example, as the Son of God, as the Son of Joseph, the carpenter's Son, the sword had no claim. But just as soon a Christ ascended the cross; as soon as the nails were put into His hands; as soon as the nails pierced His feet, it was then that He assumed our place. And then the sword could be summonsed. Then God's justice had a claim upon Him. It had no claim before that time because He was innocent, He was holy, He was harmless, He was undefiled. But now that He hangs upon the tree, the scripture says, "Cursed is everyone that hangeth upon a tree." And while He hangs upon the tree He is hanging there in our place, and the sword of justice falls.
To what extent does it fall? To the full extent of all the sins that were there on the tree. And when was that sin satisfied? When it had brought from Him all the sufferings due to us it must release Him because it then no longer had any claim upon Him. Because He was the God/Man, He could agonize and at the same time rejoice. And this is what the Apostle Paul meant when in the Book of Hebrews, he said, "He endured the cross, despised the shame." Previous to that it was said, "For the joy set before him." "For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, and despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the father." The sword can no longer call for His blood. The sword could no longer smite Him as soon as He paid our debt. He then must be released. Then He fully and freely died, a complete and full, and absolute sacrifice, yielding up His own life to the Father by saying, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." And He died! Since death no longer had any power either, death must release Him. After three days and three nights He came forth, the mighty Conqueror.
The sword is put away, and shall never be used except by Him who has conquered by the sword. And now His enemies shall die of the sword, but the little ones will have the hand of God turned to them. We, therefore, cannot believe in creature effort, or human endeavor. For someone to tell us there is something we can do to assure our position in heaven is the same as saying that Jesus died in vain. To say that we must "accept," "believe," "receive," "work," or do anything else that we might dwell everlastingly in heaven is an insult to God's justice, and Christ's blood, as well. May we be blessed to see the glory of all this.
Elder James F. Poole
Signs of the Times
Volume 151, No. 3 - March 1983