“Beauty” and “Bands”
“And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock… And I took my staff even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord. And I said unto them, if ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord. Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel” (Zechariah 11:7, 10-14).
Beauty and Bands. These were the names on the two staves of the Shepherd Prophet when he fed the flock of God. The very fact that the prophet had two staves instead of the common shepherd’s staff would arrest attention and cause enquiry. When the names on the staves were observed, the people would know that this equipment contained a prophetic communication. They would know it all meant something, but what it did mean was a mystery till all was explained.
First, the staff Beauty, and then the staff Bands, were broken. Between these two breakings the price of the Shepherd is asked for and given—thirty pieces of silver. The comment of the Shepherd himself upon this disgusting valuation is the nearest to sarcasm from His lips in the Scriptures. “A goodly price that I was prized at of them.” Casting the silver to the potter in the house of the Lord is a gesture of abhorrent disapproval of the base transaction.
This is the incident between the breaking of the two staves. First, the staff Beauty, and then the staff Bands in the hand of the Shepherd, as He fed the flock were broken. On the breaking of the staff Beauty, the covenant of blessing from which Israel derived all her loveliness, was completely destroyed. (Compare Ezekiel 16:13-14). When the staff Bands was broken, the unity and loving fellowship between the people were gone. (Compare Psalm 133:1-3). In between the two acts of breaking the staves is the weighing for His worth the price of a common slave.
This dramatic method of teaching the truth of God in that distant period of the past was common in bringing prophetic messages from Heaven.
The message of this whole matter is as simple as it is profound. Simple for the poor to see and understand; profound for the wise to ponder, and to search for deeper counsel.
It was the utter lack of appreciation of the worth and work of the Shepherd that caused the loss to Israel, of all that was lovely toward God, and of all that was so good and pleasant among His people. “A goodly price that I was prized at of them!”
“Thirty pieces of silver, for the Lord of Life they gave; Thirty pieces of silver, only the price of a slave.”
Yes, thirty pieces of silver was the stipulated price of compensation for a common slave (Exodus 21:32). This was the very least value that could be set upon the head of a human being. So was He despised and rejected of men.
This act of ungrateful and callous blindness, putting the lowest price upon the priceless love and service of the Best of heaven and earth—Christ; this was the calm and unnoticed act that blighted every beauty and every blessing of the favored people.
A choice that is made with little thought or exercise often manifests where the heart is. Judas thought so little of the thirty pieces of silver that he could actually kiss His Master with them already in his bag. It was these thirty pieces of silver and not the halter round his neck that marked Judas out as a despiser of God’s Christ, and a traitor. What, accept the price of a slave for the Shepherd of the Sheep? Judas did it. The merest speck of true love would have scorned such a valuation.
It was the price of His worth in the minds of the priests as well as being the price that Judas was willing to take for Him. The stirring of indignation is readily seen in the holy sarcasm of the words, “A goodly price that I was prized at of them.” The loathing of the money is seen in casting the pieces to the potter in the house of the Lord.
Let the potter put the silver of the wretched bargain, with the sherds of his broken, and worthless vessels. This was what was done with the price of blood, the price of His blood. The potter’s field was purchased to bury strangers in. (Matt. 27:3-10). Where the potter had sown the wreckage of his ruined work; in the field that was so full of broken, hardened clay, the irretrievable destruction of marred vessels; there amid the scattered remnants of spoiled pottery they bought a place, with Israel’s price of His blood; a place to bury strangers in.
To Israel, the world is still the potter’s field. The wreckage of Abraham’s people, broken, hard and dry, is everywhere. Every nation is another potter’s field. There are no vessels unto honor there now, nothing in the potter’s field sanctified and meet for the Master’s use; nothing but vessels broken to shivers. In this hopeless potter’s field the dying sons of Israel are buried. They are strangers from their land, and from their inheritance. They are strangers still, in the countries of their adoption, and supposed citizenship. Worst of all, they are strangers to grace and to God.
The price of His blood has been cast to the potter, in the house of the Lord. The vessel of the nation, and the vessels of the persons who comprise the nation, have been moulded by the potter, by that most dreadful transaction at Jerusalem, nearly two milleniums ago. The prophet said it should be so, and it was, and is so still.
What greater sin could any saint commit than to put a shameful price upon the Shepherd, or upon His work? To prefer another to Christ; to accept the price of fleshly gratification instead of the priceless Savior, is an insult of which only love can feel the enormity. If our lives reveal that silver is more to us than Christ, what a tremendous sin this is! If the world be gain to me then Christ is sold again.
What made Paul such a great man was not his talents, or his gifts; but the fact that he actually counted all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. To Paul there was no worth outside of his Master. It was not merely that Christ had the higher value. The world and all it had to offer, for pride or pleasure, was dung. All Paul could see before him for ambition, or attainment, was Christ. All Paul could see around him was Christ in His people, or Christ in the gospel. Paul put the value where the value belonged.
Judas knew a great deal about Christ, but Judas did not value Christ. Do we value Him? Do we value His shepherd care? Do we put the right worth upon His companionship? Do we count conformity to Christ to be the spirit of Christianity? Can we say, “To me to live is Christ?” If not, this is the reason the Beauty and the Bands are gone. This is the reason the lovely things of the Spirit are lacking in His vineyard. This is one of the main causes of discord among brethren. The staff Bands is broken because He is despised. Devotedness to Christ is the cementing tie that binds saints of God to each other. Probably the deep, deep secret of all the famine, and desolation, of this Laodicean day is the lost consciousness of the priceless value of our Immanuel, and of all that belongs to Him.
Israel’s way of recovery is also the way for us. That recovery is pictured in Zechariah’s next chapter: “And I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon Me, whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (Zech. 12:10).
It is that look into the heart of God that brings true repentance, to think that my coldness to Christ has wounded the heart of my God. When the Lord turned and looked on Peter, Peter was at that moment looking on the Lord. Their eyes met, and Peter saw more than the face of his Master; he saw into His wounded heart. This look led to Peter’s repentance and restoration.
May we look again upon Him whom we pierced. Let us confess our sin. Let us repent of our senseless and base folly. Thirty pieces of silver instead of Christ! Let us say, “Take the world but give me Jesus.” Let us hate as sin and wickedness every supplanting object, or ambition, that would obscure Christ from our vision. May we live “not unto ourselves but unto Him who died for us and rose again.” Then it will be “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Then the gathering together of God’s saints will be like Jerusalem, where God is known in her palaces for a refuge; a city beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole district. Others will exclaim “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” The Great Shepherd of the sheep will feed the poor of His flock, with unbroken staves, Beauty and Bands, in His wise and able hands. “Happy is that people, that is in such a case; yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 144:15).