What is apostasy? The nullification of a religious belief or faith, abandonment of previous loyalty, abdication, renouncing, defecting, or giving up.
Apostasy in Scripture
In this message, God requests that Zechariah highlight the positions of two types of shepherds. The principal shepherd was to exhibit the way in which God would dismiss his people (the sheep) since they had discarded him (11:1-14).
The subsequent shepherd was to exhibit the way in which God would turn his people over to shepherds that were evil (11:15-17).
God instructed Zechariah to take some work as a shepherd of a herd of sheep that were being swelled for butchering, which is to prepare them for the slaughterhouse. The Messiah would shepherd the children of God during a period of political and spiritual disarray.
The Jewish leadership was out to make themselves richer, for they did not care for the spiritual condition of the people. The flock depicts the individuals benefiting from their own voracity and abhorrent longings until they were ready for God's judgment.
Zechariah took two shepherd's staffs and named them Beauty (Grace) and Bands (Union). He broke the first one, Beauty, to show that God's charitable covenant with his kin had been broken. He broke the second one, Bands, to show that Judah and Israel’s fellowship was broken (11:14).
It is not known who the three detestable shepherds were, yet God realizes that they were ill-suited to be shepherds of his people. Thus, he eliminated them.
Since Israel had turned their backs on the good shepherd, God broke the staff called Beauty in this way, disavowing his consent to safeguard them. Plagues and tragedies came upon them, and many died.
The people paid the shepherd 30 pieces of silver, which was an affront. This was the value that was paid to a proprietor for a slave gutted by a bull (Exodus 21:32).
This is additionally the sum that Judas got for double-crossing Jesus (Matthew 27:3-10). We see that the invaluable Messiah was sold at the cost of a slave.
Potters were in the least of the social classes. The “goodly price,” a wry remark, was practically nothing to the point that it very well may be tossed to the potters.
It is of consequence that the 30 pieces of silver that were paid to Judas for deceiving Jesus were given back to the Temple and used to purchase a potter's field (Matthew 27:3-10).
Since the people denied the Messiah, God would dismiss them, which was represented by Zechariah breaking the staff called Bands.
Not long after the time of Zechariah, the Jews started to partition into various groups, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, the Herodians, and the Zealots.
The disunity that was among these various groups was an important variable paving the way to the annihilation of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Israel would not just turn their backs on the genuine Shepherd, they would rather acknowledge an absurd (useless) shepherd.
This shepherd would serve his own interests as opposed to the worries of his flock and would obliterate instead of protecting them.
Judgment is his legitimate destiny since he confided in his arm (military strength) and his eye (intelligence). God would annihilate the two sections.
It is an extraordinary misfortune for the people of God when their spiritual leaders neglect to care for them. God considers leaders of the church especially responsible for the state of his people.
The New Testament tells us about the church leaders: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
Assuming God sets any of us in a place as a leadership position, we should remember that it is additionally a position of incredible obligation.
People may wonder what this story has to do with apostasy. Was the story about the shepherds, or was it about the people?
As we read it, the story tells us about what the shepherds did in regard to the spiritual condition of the people.
It is the people that this story is truly about. The people of Israel knew God and His ways, but yet they had let the world influence them, so they turned their back on God.
They had turned away from the Truth. How much of that do we see in our society today? How much of that is true for the people in our time — in our century?
How Is Apostasy Defined?
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary states that apostasy is “an act of refusing to continue to follow, obey, or recognize a religious faith; an abandonment of a previous loyalty.” Sounds a lot like sin.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Thinking upon those lines, we can conclude that anyone that knows of the truth but has turned from the truth is guilty of apostasy and is an apostate. Hmmm? That also sounds like someone who is a backslider. What is a backslider, one may ask?
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines backsliding as “to lapse morally or in the practice of religion, or to revert to a worse condition.” Again, sounds a lot like sin.
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done (Romans 1:28).
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong — not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed (2 Corinthians 13:5-7).
Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected (2 Timothy 3:8).
What Does This Mean?
There are people in our churches today that only speak of love and unity but never talk about sin and what it can do to our lives. Some say that preaching about sin and hell scares people and it discourages them from accepting Christ because they are not perfect or holy.
Well, preaching on sin and hell should scare people. The immortal soul rests on either accepting or denying Christ as our Savior.
Living in sin and not asking for forgiveness of our sins is detrimental to our everlasting welfare — having everlasting life in heaven or residing in hell for all eternity.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).
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Chris Swanson answered the call into the ministry over 20 years ago. He has served as a Sunday School teacher, a youth director along with his wife, a music director, an associate pastor, and an interim pastor. He is a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman with over 30 years of combined active and reserve service. Chris holds a Doctor of Ministry, an M.B.A., and a B.S. in health administration. Chris and his wife Vicki, of 25 years, reside in Madison, Alabama. You can visit my site here.