Zechariah 10 contains more promises God gave to Israel. God is the giver of the spring rains. He supplied the crops with what they needed. He gave the land its moisture.
God may have been pointing out here that he was the God who brings rain – unlike the false god Baal, whom the Israelites frequently were tempted to worship and whom God put to shame in 1 Kings 18. Read that amazing chapter when you have time!
God isn’t like the idols the people of Israel were in the habit of making. Those idols offered up nothing but “nonsense,” “lies,” “false dreams,” and “empty consolation.” Sometimes we chase after things we think will “work” for us. We find something amiss in our lives, and we seek to fix it on our own – or by putting our faith in something other than God. Some people run to crystals or to the “power” of positive thinking or their own words, trying to speak good things into existence. God answers back that we will find in those things nothing but nonsense, lies, false dreams, and empty consolation.
Apparently, the leaders of Israel were urging the people on in their false worship of these “household gods.” The One True God said his people were wandering “like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.” This was not just Israel’s problem in 500 BC. It still was Israel’s problem in Jesus’ day. You remember from our reading of the Gospel of Matthew: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). We can be led astray. We ought to be discerning. And we can trust Jesus has compassion for us. He is our good shepherd.
So God was upset with the “shepherds” – the leaders of Israel – and he promised to punish them. He also promised to care for his people, his “flock.”
And then God promised he would provide the “cornerstone” and the “tent peg” and the “battle bow” for his people. Some scholars believe this is a prophecy about Jesus Christ. Of course, we know Jesus as the cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16; Ephesians 2:19-21). But you’ve probably never thought of Jesus Christ as your tent peg!
I once took a trip and was planning to camp out, but I couldn’t carry my tent pegs onto the plane. They wouldn’t make it through security. So my first stop once I landed was to go to the store and buy tent pegs. They are vital to the whole proposition of a tent standing upright and remaining in place!
Ah, the imagery here is rich! Thinking about the “tent” makes me think about the tabernacle – the place where God’s presence dwelt with Israel for so long. And it makes me think about the apostle Paul’s “tent” and his longing for a “heavenly dwelling” – “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).
God promised twice to strengthen the people of Israel (Zechariah 10:6, 12). He promised to bring them back into the Promised Land and to make them as strong as they were before they were carried off into exile. Both of the major “exiles” of Israel are mentioned here – exile in Egypt and Assyria (think also Babylonia). God is the shepherd and redeemer of his people.
As I read this, I thought about God as the God who acts. Listen to the verbs in this chapter – “strengthen,” “save,” “bring back,” “answer,” “gather,” and “redeem.” God is the subject of all those verbs. And yes, God may “scatter” his people, too.
Too often, we don’t seek out the God who acts. We seek out other things. And we’re left with nonsense, lies, false dreams, and empty consolations. For me, this passage today is a reminder to seek out God first. I’m reminded to take those sticky situations in life – those really hard problems – and to turn to God in prayer.
Maybe you could pick one of those verbs and apply it to a prayer of your own today. Maybe you ask God to “strengthen” you. Maybe you ask him to “bring back” a loved one who is on a wrong path. Maybe you ask for God’s “gathering” goodness in some area of your life. Think about it.