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" _ ____ strike the Shepherd" by Dale McCartney MD

This is a terrific short but powerful article by my good friend who articulates on paper some great insights that flow like soft butter on a hot cornbread!  So enjoy!   (George)

><>   <><   <><   <><  <><   ("Don't forget--any dead fish can float down stream!  Be willing to go upstream-- against the flow!"  GN Graves  

“_  ___  Strike the shepherd”?

(Matthew 26:31 Mark 14:27 and Zechariah 13:7-9); 

going beyond commonplace perceptions

By L. D. McCartney, M.D.


Virtually all English translations of the Bible present us with an unfortunate conflict of ideas when we compare these verses.  We should first ask ourselves if it seems rational and reasonable to presume that Jesus would add words to a previous prophecy which would essentially change its original meaning.  I presume not.  Hence, we must rectify the injustice represented in the various translations. 

The original prophecy, found in the book of Zechariah, says “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter…”  It does not indicate directly who will do the striking.  However, virtually every translation of Matthew 26:31 adds two little words at the beginning of the sentence, making it read; “I will strike the shepherd…”  By consulting an interlinear Bible tool, we can see that those two words are missing from the original text.  They are merely being assumed, based partly upon linguistics, but also because the Punitive Substitution Model of Atonement has been so pervasive since the time of John Calvin and Martin Luther (both of whom studied medieval law before becoming religious writers/teachers/reformers).  

When one starts reading the Bible from this Legal-Penal standpoint, it seems appropriate to place God in the role of judge, jury and executioner.  Painting God’s character as judgmental and vindictive is easy, if one desires to do this.  Yet, the Bible contains multiple metaphors which can be easily misunderstood, leading to false beliefs.  Fortunately, we don’t have to automatically accept these beliefs.  When we look a bit deeper, some amazingly new and refreshing perspectives emerge.  

“Awake my sword…” is the beginning of Zechariah’s prophecy.  This seems to indicate strong action, with deadly intent.  And the message is apparently coming from God.  Yet, sword can be used merely as a metaphor indicating division (see Matthew 10:34 and then the parallel verse in Luke 12:51).  Therefore, God through Zechariah is logically saying; “Awake, spiritual division… strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered…”  This generates an entirely different meaning for the prophecy than is portrayed by the Legal-Penal Model of Atonement. 

Despite this, notice how the Matthew Henry Bible Commentary begins to interpret Zechariah 13:7-9: “Here is a prophecy of the sufferings of Christ. God the Father gave order to the sword of his justice to awake against his Son.”  Whose justice?  Whose sword?  Read the words carefully.   The cause-and-effect seems very clear here, although the following paragraphs of this commentary muddle things up considerably.  We need to be very clear in our thinking.  Can we ever presume to say… or even infer… that God’s justice can be defined by wanting or requiring the killing of an innocent man, even His own son?  Perhaps we are confused about whose sword and whose ideas of justice were operative during the crucifixion events.  

Isaiah chapter 53 is often used to support a view of Atonement which paints God in the role of demanding death “for sin”, as a prerequisite for forgiveness.  But Hebrews 2:14-17 paints a very different picture.  In several translations, the word Atonement actually appears in verse 17.  Yet, verse 14 indicates that Jesus’ death was, in some way, satisfying the demands of Satan, not the Father.  If the Father were the one demanding death, then who was Jesus metaphorically “destroying”, according to this verse?  We need to keep the protagonists and antagonists clear in our minds.  From these verses in Hebrews, it seems perfectly congruent to interpret Satan as the one “striking the shepherd” (although his original intention was probably to strike everyone else on Earth).  

Now when we return to Isaiah 53, we notice the two critically important words in verse 4; “we considered”.  The entire verse reads; “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted” (NASB).  This verse is prophesying that men would interpret Christ’s death as being the result of God’s punishment.  This is exactly what the Jewish leader’s argued and clamored for—they accused Jesus of blasphemy and they insisted upon the death penalty as proper “justice”.  They presumed themselves to be God’s representatives, hence they presumed to be carrying out God’s will and God’s justice by killing the supposed blasphemer.  

Hence, we now understand how the prophecies in Isaiah and Zechariah were fulfilled with amazing accuracy, despite the confusion caused by false interpretations.  

The Legal-Penal Model of Atonement adds confusion to the idea of punishment in suggesting that God “needs” to punish sin and that this legal impulse was deflected to another recipient.  I sincerely doubt that the crucifiers of Christ saw it that way.  I doubt that any court of law today would allow for such deflection or substitution of punishment.  Something very different must have been happening behind the scenes.  We must look beyond the superficialities of appearances.  

So, the words of Zechariah would be clearer to us if read; “Awake, spiritual division, and when your frenzied anger of rebellion against God is peaked, you will strike the shepherd…”  

But the rest of this prophecy in Zechariah needs illuminating as well, for it has been easily misinterpreted.  It goes on to say that God would “turn back His hand [on or towards] the little ones” [various translations].  The following verses prophesied the destruction of 2/3 of some group, presumable the “little ones”.  To understand these things, we first need to take one word at a time.  We will start with the word “hand”.  Since God is not made of flesh and blood, this is obviously a metaphor.  What does it really mean?

God’s hand in scripture refers to His power, action, perhaps judgment but also protection.  Notice Ezra 8:21-23; “…we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.”  As a sidelight to our discussion, isn’t it interesting that the words “we had told”, in this verse sound a lot like “we considered”, in Isaiah 53?  We should be careful not to automatically accept men’s opinions of what “the power of God’s wrath” means.  

Notice other impressions of various Bible writers and interpreters regarding God’s “hand”:

He is as bright as lightning; a two-pronged lightning bolt flashes from his hand. This is the outward display of his power,” (Habakkuk 3:4, NET).  The same verse in ESV translation: “His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power.”  

We should also remember that early events of the Bible often created idiomatic ideas which Jewish people later incorporated into their speech and writings.  These have been referred to as Hebraisms.  Now, remember the specter of Moses stretching forth his hand over the Red Sea, dividing it.  Later on, during a certain battle, he held his arm (and hand) up all day long as a visual reminder of God’s authority.  Therefore, the idea of God stretching forth His hand was likely an idiom or Hebraism indicating imminent action.  

The next words we need to dissect are “turn back”.  What does it mean to “turn back the hand”?  If an outstretched hand indicated imminent action, then turning back would likely mean a stay of action, whether temporary or permanent.  In this case it appears to be temporary, since the following verses speak of destruction.  This makes sense to us when we see Zechariah 13:8-9 as prophetic of the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred around 70AD.  But notice the irony contained in the description of the siege, as given by Josephus the historian: “Titus [the Roman conqueror] reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, saying that the victory did not come through his own efforts but that he had merely served as an instrument of God's wrath.”

Isn’t it ironic that Pagans and Christian believers alike seem inclined to ascribe certain works and outcomes, and even motives and emotions to God?  Killing, destruction and “vengeance” are common themes.  But can we legitimately ascribe these things to the true character of God?  Isaiah 1:25 gives us a clue as to the real intentions behind “God’s hand”.  The scripture says; “I will turn My hand against you and will burn away your dross completely; I will remove all your impurities,” (Holman CSB).  

We can compare this verse with Hebrews 12:5-7; “…and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?…” (NASB).

In summary, the words of the verses in question are saying to me that Jesus came to Earth to reveal the true character of God, but as a natural consequence, great spiritual division and conflict occurred in evil hearts.  Jesus, the shepherd, would be “stricken” by the intense division and evil motives within the hearts of some of “the little ones”.  (“We, like sheep have all gone astray”… etc.)  At the time of the most terrible act of these sheep (the crucifixion of Christ by the Jewish leadership), God’s natural impulse might have been to stretch out his “hand” of protection and stop the evil.  But a much greater agenda was being carried out.  Hence, God would “put back” His “hand”, allowing events to transpire and allowing the universe to witness the ultimate contrast between good and evil.  

Even the Jewish leaders who had murdered Christ would be given about three decades of grace in order for some of them to see the light, to be “refined”; to repent and to be transformed.  The Apostle Paul’s conversion is perhaps the most dramatic example of God’s agenda being fulfilled.  He was only one of many others who came to represent the 1/3 referred to in Zechariah 13:9; “And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, 'They are My people,' And they will say, 'The LORD is my God.”  

Therefore, a better translation of Matthew 26:31 and Mark 14:27 might read; “Strike the shepherd, you who are compelled by spiritual division to strike… and take out your presumed justice.  The sheep will be confused and scattered, but God will be tirelessly working to restore and to save.”

We might add: “Eventually, real justice will prevail.  But be careful how you interpret these things because punishment and reward are often brought to men over time through natural consequences, as it appears to have occurred to the Jewish nation around 70AD.  They had goaded the sleeping Roman Giant too many times and that Giant Empire finally awoke and struck back decisively.  

Many times the choices made by men are directly responsible for subsequent events which are then only interpreted as God’s doing.  Yes, God may sometimes facilitate natural events and He may occasionally intervene supernaturally, but the most important determinant is the nature of men’s hearts.  Evil hearts bring destructive results, if not immediately then certainly with time.  

Amazingly, God’s answer to evil is perhaps never embodied in immediate force of a reactive nature but instead, something called “love” which is the Bible’s primary descriptor of His character.  Love involves patience, kindness, grace and forgiveness, while refusing to become corrupted.  When we begin to take superficial ideas which misrepresent God and replace them with true understanding of His character, a very different set of consequences can begin to unfold.  Many of these good things may occur “naturally” while others can only be described as miraculous.”  



Interesting note regarding the destruction of Jerusalem:

“Josephus claims that 1.1 million people were killed during the siege [of Jerusalem], of which a majority were Jewish, and that 97,000 were captured and enslaved, including Simon bar Giora and John of Giscala.[11] His figures are rejected as impossible by modern scholarship, since around the time about a million people lived in Palestine, probably about half of them were Jews, and sizable Jewish populations remained in the area after the war was over, even in the hard-hit region of Judea.[12]

Many fled to areas around the Mediterranean. Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, saying that the victory did not come through his own efforts but that he had merely served as an instrument of God's wrath.”[13]


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Avatar George Graves last year
We must not let the Enemy dupe us any longer!

We become like the God we see. So any distortion of this picture/movie/on going understanding of GOD-- will either heal us or kill us!

More -- if you are ready!?!