Zechariah 11:17, “Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.”
This morning, certain things – as the old saying goes – “get our goat” here in this world. Since we all have buttons that can be pushed to letting our emotions get the best of us, we need to be aware of what our buttons are as well as learn to control those situations and never act contrary to Biblical mandates. Biblically speaking, there is a difference between being righteously angry and letting anger rule our spirit. (Ephesians 4:26-27) Certain things should fill us with righteous indignation, for even our Lord Himself was angry with a cause at those that bought and sold in the temple. (John 2) If certain things do not bother us due to their inherent error, then we quickly find ourselves on the path of complacency. So, may we learn to model our behaviour even closer to the Master in knowing what should arouse our anger but also model the pattern of not letting it rule our lives.
The subject from our study verse above is one that I freely confess fills me with anger faster than just about anything else in this world. Our study verse shows the eventual end of an egotistical preacher that thinks too highly of himself. When trying to comprehend that the gospel minister is supposed to be an ensample to the flock, there is nothing more foreign and alien to the discharge of his duty than such a proud and haughty behavioral pattern. One particular word from our verse above really drives the point home about how we should view an egotistical preacher. He is an “idol” shepherd. Not to be confused with an “idle” shepherd, this man literally puts himself on the same plane with the One he should be heralding and extolling: Jesus Christ the Lord.
How does a man become an “idol shepherd?” It is generally not nearly as stark and open as a man claiming to be God or promoting himself as God. Rather, his conduct consistently shows a skewed and crumbling pattern that indicates that his thinking, mindset, and understanding of everything is right. He can never be wrong. Anyone that dares to disagree with him really does not know what they are talking about, and he scoffs at the very idea that either a. he could be wrong or b. someone else knows more than he does. Oftentimes, this pattern develops gradually, and eventually the manifestation of it brings some rather harsh circumstances.
In the short course of my ministry, I have had the experience to visit two churches to fill their supply that had been devastated by such “idol shepherds.” The scenes that I have witnessed are stirring to the point of indignation at what harm and detriment such men can be to innocent sheep and lambs. They truly are undeserving of the painful condition that they find themselves in. When observing those times, I many times wonder how such men could do such things. Since the flock is to be the man’s chief care and concern, how does that man develop such a “god complex?” Since we still carry around the corruption of sin in this old flesh and since the devil seeks to constantly entice us with his wiles, simply put: they succumbed to the temptation to set themselves higher than they should.
The manifestation of this mentality can be quite a difficult situation to observe. Many times, the man that endangers his ministry in this fashion was at one time in the past not only a gifted man but also quite blessed with power from on high in his labors. Since such gifted men can fall prey to such a condition, it behooves every minister of the gospel to earnestly pray that his charge always mean more to him than personal advancement. We need wisdom to successfully repel all the wiles that attempt to deceive us into putting ourselves on the level of Divine prerogative.
Notice what the Lord promises as the outcome of such an idol shepherd. After the man completely gives his mentality over to self-idolatry, God does some things to show forth not only His power but also His promise not to give or share His glory with another. (Isaiah 42:8) The man will have 3 things: 1. the sword will be upon his arm and eye, 2. his arm shall be dried up, and 3. his eye shall be darkened. These three things show how utterly and completely the Lord removes the man’s “status” in the eyes of those he is around.
When the sword is upon the man’s arm and eye, he cannot see or dwell peacefully with anybody. Not only can he not see peace – the sword is before his eye – but he cannot dwell at peace either – the sword is upon his arm. Men who develop the “god complex” cannot be satisfied unless everyone else thinks as well of them as they think of themselves. Since such is impossible, they are constantly at war and “wrought up” about anything and everything. Since God’s people are compared to sheep, how do sheep respond to war, strife, and turmoil? Nothing could be more alien to them as they desire still waters to drink and peaceful pastures to lie down in.
When his arm is clean dried up, his influence and “power” begins to dwindle to the point of completely going away. Men, who at times in the past, were powerful preachers and able gifts to the Lord’s people only to develop this thinking soon lose their “pulpit presence” and ability to edify the Lord’s people. Preaching that was once so powerful that it seemed to “ring the heavenly arches” now has the hollow echo of dry speaking. Where once people sought their counsel as wise and sage undershepherds, they now are perceived as foolish and/or arrogant with none to desire their opinion about things.
When the eye is darkened, they no longer see or understand the things they were once blessed to see. While our eternal life and standing will never be taken away, our light and understanding of rich, Biblical truths can stand in jeopardy for continued and willful disobedience. If someone goes through this downward spiral, their once deep and rich preaching will deteriorate to “surface skimming” and/or unsubstantiated thoughts. Where once people were given rich insights into gospel truths, now all they receive from such men is personal speculation or opinion, which the teachers pass off as the gospel itself.
Considering how thoroughly the Lord deals with such men, one easily sees how important the command against idolatry is for us. Whether we worship someone else or ourselves, both are heinous in the sight of the Almighty. For the minister that leads, it seems doubly so. However, the real tragedy is not the loss of one man and his gift (though that circumstance is tragic). The real tragedy is that when the spiral begins, it potentially can damage poor saints in the process. Before the realization hits that they are not being fed what they once were, confusion begins to set in like a fog, and like a fog, it is not immediately exited. May the importance of God’s place and the safeguard of the welfare of His people here on earth, stir us as ministers not to ever become “idol shepherds.” May the purity of the Lord’s character stir all of us to keep Him fixed in our hearts and minds above anything of ourselves (including our own opinions). Finally, may our indignation over seeing such things never take us down the path of uncontrolled rage, but rather, may we commit the matter to Him that judgeth faithfully and will deal thoroughly with the man’s case.