From before they exile and throughout its duration, they had begun to look for their hope, comfort and deliverance from idols and diviners. The idols they are accused of having followed in verse 2 in particular, were called teraphim. These were little household gods that you could carry around with you.
They were portable, so you didn’t have to go to the temple to worship, but you could simply do-it-yourself in the comfort of your own home.
Instead of consulting the prophets sent by God and listening to them, they sought after diviners, who claimed to be able to predict the future by cutting up an animal and looking at its liver for divine counsel. It was the modern day equivalent of consulting witch doctors, psychics, reading horoscopes, stars and tarot cards.
But they were all lies. All their visions and promises of good fortune, rain, prosperity, safety and peace, were nothing but naked lies.
Instead of the good times that their idols and diviners promised them, they ended up in chains and thousands died by the sword. They lost their right to be a nation and instead of prosperity, they ended up in poverty. They became like sheep without a shepherd.
Sheep are notorious for their neediness – they are not like goats which can pretty much survive on their own. Sheep need a shepherd, and without one, they will die of hunger, thirst and disease, ravaged by ruthless animals.
But now, the exile had ended, and they were back in their land. But it seems they were reluctant to return to the Lord. Their old habits still remained. They still possessed the idols which their forefathers and captors had worshipped. They still had false diviners and prophets amongst them. And they were still listening to them. No wonder they were reluctant to rebuild the temple and return to worshipping the one true God.
But in verse 3, Zechariah put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the leaders of the people. Yahweh declared “My anger burns against the shepherds and I will punish the leaders”. The shepherds and leaders referred to the kings, priests and false prophets who had caused them to forsake God and had sold them in to the jaws of Satan.
They would punished said the Lord. The name the Lord of hosts or the Lord Almighty is one of war and battle. God had set Himself against the godless leaders and would fight and punish them severely.
And why is that? Because the Lord cares for his people. He would not stand by while they were fed to the wolves by the very people who were supposed to care for them. By calling them His flock, He was announcing that He himself would shepherd them. The shepherds to whom he had entrusted them had failed, so now God Himself would take charge.
As we start of the New Year, this is a message that you must take to heart. The Lord, the Lord Almighty is your Shepherd.
It is no secret that our suffering, in as much as ordinary Zimbo’s have played a part in it, is a direct result of bad leadership all over. They have been unable and unwilling to make our fortunes better. And so we would be foolish to continue to put any hope or trust in them.
But here is the good news. God has declared himself to be our Shepherd. And what other Shepherd do we know of other than Jesus Christ? The breadth of scripture declares Him to be the Great Shepherd of the Sheep. Unlike the leaders of this world, He is a good Shepherd.
And as His sheep, we must pursue two things this year. The first is to follow Him.