The Storm And The Shower

Charles Haddon Spurgeon April 16, 1908 Scripture: Zechariah 13:7 From: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 54

No. 3088
A Sermon Published on Thursday, April 16, 1908,
Delivered by C.H. Spurgeon,
At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,
On Thursday Evening, December 3rd, 1874.

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” — Zechariah 13:7.

WE are sure that we understand this passage, for we have our Lord Jesus Christ’s application of it to himself: “All ye,” said he to his disciples, “shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” It is always well, when we are considering a text in the Old Testament which we think may refer to Christ, if we can be certified that it does so by some declaration of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, or by some testimony from the lips of the Master himself, as we have in this case.

The passage seems to me to be best illustrated by a description I once heard from one of our Lord’s servants, who pictured a tempest as gathering in the heavens, the darkness deepening, and by and by came the thunder and lightning, and the storm shook the earth. He saw before him a towering mountain, with its peak lifted high up towards heaven; at the foot of it lay a sheltered hamlet. The storm seemed all concentrated around the mountain’s brow; that was the center of the battle of the elements. That lofty peak seemed to be split and broken to shivers by the dread artillery of God. The hamlet down below was in comparative peace; only some gentle drops of rain fell on it, fertilizing its fields. And he who gave the illustration said, “That peak was the Christ of God, Jesus the Substitute and Surety of his people, standing in our stead, on whom burst the full tempest of Jehovah’s wrath, that the soft drops of pity and of grace might fall on the people for whom he suffered.”

Looking at the text in that light, we have, first, the thunder of the tempest: “Awake; O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” Then we have the soft and gentle shower: “I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” There is the war-note first, the crack and clang of conflict; and then it is peace, with the music of rest and joy.


And let us notice, first, the Victim upon whom it fell. According to the text, the sword was to awake against One who is called by God, “My shepherd,” and who is further described as “the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.” We gather, therefore, that Jesus, who suffered in our stead, holds the office of a shepherd, a shepherd appointed by God, and sent by him to take care of the sheep. It is not my object, at this time, to speak at length upon this office of the Lord Jesus Christ, (Mr. Spurgeon preached many Sermons upon Christ’s office as Shepherd, including the following: — Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 995, “The Sheep and their Shepherd;” No. 1,877, “Our Own Dear Shepherd;” No, 2,120, “The Security of Believers; or Sheep who shall Never Perish;” No. 3,006, “The Lord is My Shepherd;” and No 3,060, “The Good Shepherd.”) but just to remind you that, as Jacob, when he was shepherd to Laban, was responsible for all the flocks under his care, so has God committed his own chosen flock into the hands of Jesus, “that great shepherd of the sheep,” and he has become responsible for them. They will pass again under the hand of him that telleth them, and he will say to his Father, “Here am I, and the sheep that thou didst give into my hand. Of all that thou gavest me, I have lost none.” It is Christ’s office to keep his sheep even to the end, and to lead them at last to lie down upon the hill tops of heaven, not one of them having been lost by the way. Dear friend’s, let us exult in this relationship between Christ and his people. We are as weak and foolish and as full of wants as sheep can be; but we have a Shepherd who perfectly understands us, who so loves us that he will preserve to the end even the very least among us.

I want to dwell now upon the personal description of Christ that is given by the Lord of hosts himself: “the man that is my fellow.” We never wish to deny the real manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not always possible to speak of that manhood without making some mistakes; but, for my part, I believe the mistake of falling short of a description of full and proper manhood is far more frequent than the mistake of carrying that description too far. Jesus Christ felt as we feel, suffered as we suffer, and was tempted in all points like as we are. He was a man as to his body, and he was a man as to his soul. He was torn as we are, and from infancy grew to boyhood, and “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” He reasoned as we reason, but without the evil bias which the Fall has given to our judgment. He lived as we live, only without that tendency to evil which has come to us through our natural depravity. In everything that is included in pure manhood, Christ was one with us. Sin was not present in the first ideal of manhood, and it was not present in Christ; “in him was no sin.” Do not, I pray you, ever set Jesus Christ up so high as to imagine that his manhood was not, like yours, so that he cannot sympathize with you, for then you cannot sympathize with him; and the next thing will be that you cannot love him, and that you cannot trust him, and that, you cannot come unto him, and have fellowship with him. Believe, beloved, that he was in all points such as you are with the exception of your sin. He had infirmities such as you have, though they were sinless ones; he felt just such aches and pains as trouble you, and the depressions and downcastings that vex your spirit. Yes, he who stood in our stead was a man. The law demanded that man, who had done dishonor to it, should also vindicate it; and it was so, for the Son of Mary stood in the gap on our behalf. The second Adam, the true representative Man, stood there to render unto living justice full payment of the debt which the first Adam, representing us, had incurred.

But the text is actually clear in the description of Christ’s Godhead: “the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.” What a wonderful description this is! A man, and yet “my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.” The word translated “fellow” signifies companion, associate, confidant, and equal. I could not express the full meaning of it in fewer words than those. Christ, was God’s companion: “the Word was with God.” “I was by him, as one brought up with him.” Christ was God’s associate, with whom the Father constantly communed in fullest fellowship. He was God’s confidant; he had seen all things that his Father had done, and therefore he was able to make them known to us. He was also equal with the Father, and we may go even beyond our text, and say that he was one with God, for so he claimed to be when he said, “I and my Father are one.” I never wonder, when persons once doubt the Deity of Christ, if they go to great lengths in slandering his character. I heard, the other day, something said with regard to our Savior’s birth which it is not right for any man to repeat, yet I said, when I heard it, “Yes, and it must be so if he was not really God.” The mystery of his birth does become a matter that we have to speak of with ‘bated breath if he was not the Son of the Highest; and his life itself (I say this with the utmost reverence to his holy name) was a barefaced imposture if he was not the Son of God, for that he certainly claimed to be. But, beloved, we know of a surety that Christ was the Son of the Highest, and “very God of very God;” and such he is to us in his power within our souls. He has done for us what no mere man could ever have done, and we are resting all our hopes for time and for eternity upon One who is able to save us unto the uttermost, because he is divine. He is indeed the “fellow” of the Eternal, and I delight to think that he, who stood in our piece, and suffered in our stead, though man, was not merely man. It was the Infinite who became an infant, the God who became man, that he might stand in the sinner’s place, and that so the atonement might have an infinite value which otherwise it could not have had. It was God who bore my sins in his own body on the tree, and the apostle spoke under divine inspiration when he said to the elders of the church at Ephesus, “Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” The expression must be allowable, or it would not have been used in such a connection, so I also will use it. It was my God who bled for me on Calvary, that I might live with him for ever. Oh, what consolation there is in this truth, that he, who was smitten instead of us, was most truly God as well as most certainly man!

I have thus, then, clearly set before you that wondrous Victim of the terrible storm.

Now think, next, of the sufferings he endured. Concerning them, the text says, “Awake, O sword,… smite the shepherd.” It was a sword, then, with which he was smitten. Upon Christ there did not so heavily fall the rod of chastisement as the sword of punishment. He was chastised for our sake, for “the chastisement of our peace was upon him;” but more than that, there was the sharp, penal sword which demanded life itself. Against our Savior the most fatal weapon was used. He must not merely be sorrowful even unto death, but he must actually die. Dear friends, that sword was so keen and piercing that it cut him to the very soul. I talk of these great truths very simply, for I do not think there is any occasion here for using flowers of speech; but if we were as we ought to be, we should be very deeply affected at the thought that the Son of man most perfect, and the Son of God most glorious, should have the sword of divine vengeance against sin plucked out of its scabbard that it might be used upon him. O darling of Jehovah, must thou bleed? Thou fairest, among ten thousand fair, thou who art altogether lovely, must thou be dragged down into the dust of death? O face like the noonday sun, must thou be eclipsed in darkness? O eyes brighter than the evening star, must ye be sealed in the midnight of death, after having first been quenched in floods of tears? It must be so. The sword which is for criminals, the sword which is to avenge high treason, the sword which cannot be quiet so long as there is sin before the throne of God,-that sword must leap out of its scabbard, and sheathe itself in the heart of Christ.

“Jehovah bade his sword awake,
O Christ, it woke ‘gainst thee!
Thy blood the flaming blade must slake,
Thy heart its sheath must be.
All for my sake, my peace to make:
Now sleeps that sword for me.”

And then you will notice that the very wording of the text indicates the sharpness of the suffering; it is, “Awake, O sword,” as if the sword of God had been asleep before; yet I have read of Pharaoh and his hosts destroyed at the Red Sea, and of Amalek cut, off from before the Lord, and of Canaanites extirpated from their native land, and of Sennacherib’s vast army slain in a single night. Was not the sword of the Lord awake then? No; it was only, as it were, starting in his sleep. The sword of divine justice was stirring in its scabbard, but God’s long-suffering was pushing it back; but now he cries to it, “Awake, O sword! End thy slumbering now. Human sin has startled thee many a time, but I have said to thee, ‘Sleep on; my patience must have her perfect work; so wait;’ but now, leap out of thy scabbard, O sword, for thy Victim is before thee! He is come upon whom human sin is concentrated, the Victim whom thou art to smite, because upon him the Lord hath laid the iniquity of all his people.” It seems a dreadful thing to me, I cannot express what I have thought about it, and felt about it, that this sword of God’s vengeance, which, uplifted at any time, would smite us to hell, must be bidden to awake, that is, to arouse itself to more than its usual sharpness, to cut and hew and hack as it did when Christ was exposed to its keen blade. His physical sufferings, his mental griefs, and his spiritual torments, are beyond all description. When God’s infinite justice was wide awake, and in sternest action, you may guess in a measure, but you cannot, fully conceive, what our Lord must have endured.

Observe once more, for this adds to the forge of the language, that this sword was awakened by the voice of God himself. I can imagine the cry that arose to God’s sword when the world was corrupt, and full of sin in the days of Noah, and man’s sin cried aloud, “Awake, O sword!” I can understand how the groans and tears of the children of Israel when they were in Egypt, in cruel bondage, said, “Awake, O sword!” I can imagine the unutterable abominations of the Canaanites crying, “Awake, O sword!” I think I can even hear your sins and mine saying, “Awake, O sword!” Yet God did not suffer that sword to awake to the fullest extent, even in those dreadful olden times; and, in the case of believers, not at all, for “he hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” But, at last, God spoke, God, the Lord of hosts, spoke, and said, “Awake, O sword!” Now the sword must awake, for it is God who calls to it; and when God himself bids the sword of divine justice smite his son, he knows, as we cannot, what those blows must have been. “Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.” The bruisings of the Roman scourge were terrible, but his Father’s bruisings were far worse. Neither Jew nor Gentile could put him to grief as the Father did. That was the keenest agony of all which made him cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” So it was God who awakened the sword, and God who smote the Shepherd with power omnipotent, which, if Christ also had not been omnipotent, would have utterly destroyed him. I believe that our poet was right when he said that Christ —

Bore all incarnate God could bear,
With strength enough, yet none to spare.”

Now notice, thirdly, while I am speaking about the storm, the startling effect of it upon those who were with the Victim: “Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” The disciples were alarmed at the very approach of the Savior’s sufferings; they feel asleep even while he was praying in the garden; and they ran away, like cards, when he was arrested. Some of them crept back by stealth to see him in the hall of judgment, but one of them denied him even there, and none of them had the courage to stand by him in his time of trial. We may blame them, but there is a view of their conduct which may be taken which, though it does not, excuse them, may at least show how much we are like them. Methinks they were startled at his agony, astonished at his griefs, amazed that such an One as he was could be treated with such scorn and ignominy, and be put to such a shameful death. They believed him to be the Son of the Highest, and they could not understand how he could be made to suffer so. And when I have seen sin laid on Jesus, I must confess that I have been astonished and startled, and overwhelmed by his griefs; and I have thought that, if had been with him in his agony, as his disciples were, I might have been scattered with them. The sufferings of the man who was the fellow of the Lord of hosts, in place of us poor worms of the earth, were more than we can comprehend. God grant us grace, if startled as we hear about them, to rally again to him, and each one of us to say, with Thomas, “My Lord, and my God,” and then to cling to him through life and in death, come what may.

II. I will not any further describe this great storm, for I want your patient attention for a little while longer while I speak of THE BLESSED SHOWER OF MERCY WHICH FOLLOWED IT: “I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.”

Where does this shower of mercy fall? “Upon the little ones.” What means that expression? It is a name of fondness and endearment. We who are parents love to talk about our little ones; and God, who is the father of the family of which Christ is the Elder Brother, calls us his little ones to show how he loves us. There is a propensity about love to speak of its object as little; you know how we make little words of endearment, and apply them to those of whom we are very fond. So God calls his children-his people his little ones, and says that he will turn his hand upon them. How little we all are in comparison with God! We are not worthy even to be mentioned in connection with him. We talk about the little ants which toil and tug to move one tiny grain of wheat; but the ants might very well say to us, “We are not little at all, compared with you, in comparison with what you are when you are contrasted with the great God who made both us and you.” He filleth all things; and, compared with him, we are less than nothing. Then, how sweet it is to know that God will turn his hand upon his little ones, such insignificant nothings as we are; born yesterday, living to-day, and dead ere tomorrow comes, mere flowers that bloom but to fade and die! O God, how good thou art to think about us who are so little!

And then, further, those whom the Lord loves are little in their own estimation, and the promise of the test is to those who are little: “I will turn mine hand upon the little ones;” — little as to excellence; yea, with no excellence of which you dare to boast; — little as to natural strength to do that which is good; yet, with no natural strength at all, but feeling yourselves to be helpless and hopeless apart from Christ;-so little that you need to be swaddled in the bands of grace, carried in the alms of power, fed from, the bosom of eternal love, and to be nurtured, kept, preserved, protected by God all your life long, for you can do nothing of yourselves. Well, if you feel your littleness, here is the promise for just such as you are, “I will turn mire hand upon the little ones.” You strong ones may take care of yourselves, if you can. You who exult in your own native strength, may go your own way. You who are rich and increased in goods may glory in what you have; but my Master fills the hungry with good things, he lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, and sets him among princes. Thus he turns his hand upon the little ones, and-happy are ye who are the objects of his mercy.

Next, think of the Giver of the mercy: “I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” Then it is God himself, that same Lord of hosts who smote the Shepherd, who turns his own hand upon the little ones. Was he strong to smite, beloved? Then he is equally strong to save. Did he smite his Son with omnipotent blows? Then he will bless us with omnipotent love. Oh, think of this! The hand that smote the Shepherd is now turned in another direction, but with the same power in it, to bless the sheep. How just, then, is the grace which we receive! The right hand of God wields the sword, and with it he smites his well-beloved Son; but, having smitten him, he draws the sword, and the same hand of infallible justice now deeds out the bounties of the covenant, for every blessing which any child of God receives comes from him as justly as if it were not a gift of mercy; for, when Christ died for us, and so discharged all our debts, it was but just that we should be justified in him. When he had stood in our place, and offered a perfect righteousness and a complete atonement for us, it was only justice that we should be “accepted in the Beloved.” Every gift that now comes to God’s people comes in a way of which divine justice itself approves; nay, more, it so comes that it would not be just if it had not come. The right hand which smote Christ on our behalf is the same right hand which is now turned upon the little ones. Oh, how blessed it is to see justice and mercy thus united in the covenant of grace! How honorable it is to be found in such a condition that God’s own royal hand has now become our protection! Yes, Lord, I have learned the inflexible character of thy justice in the death of thy dear Son; and as I have seen him bleed and die, my soul has been crushed into the dust, and I have been terrified because of thy severity; but now that I know that, just such an One as thou wast in all thy sternness in smiting thy Son, just such thou are in thy loving care of all thine elect, and therefore does my spirit exult in thee. Take the attribute of justice away from God, and you have taken away that which makes all the other attributes sure to the people of God; but when you see that he, who is the God of infinite justice, is also the God who turns his hand upon us in mercy, there is a sweetness about the whole matter which otherwise we should not have been able to perceive.

So I close by noticing what this mercy is which comes to the people of God: “I will turn mine hand upon the little ones;” that is, “my hand of compassion. Before, through their sin, I put them away from me; but, now that I have smitten their Shepherd instead of them, I will draw near to them; I will be with them; I will touch them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. I will turn my hand upon them in compassionate familiarity.”

“I will turn mine hand upon them;” that is, “my hand of power to protect them. When any come forth to attack them, I will put forth my hand to shield them from danger; nay, more, I will take them up into my hand, and none shall pluck them thence. I will keep then as the apple of mine eye. I will cover them with my feathers, and under my wings shall they trust; my truth shall be their shield and buckler. I will turn mine hand upon the little ones, so that, though they were defenceless before, my omnipotent power shall guard them against danger of every kind.” “I will turn my hand of bounty towards these little ones.” God’s hand is a full hand, and he gives of his fullness to his little ones, and satisfies their mouth with good things. He openeth his hand, and supplieth the needs of every living thing, so he will certainly not neglect those little ones for whom Christ died as a Substitute.

Next, “I will turn my hand of gracious working upon the little ones,” as if we were, like the potter’s vessels upon the wheel, only half fashioned as yet, but God will turn his hand upon us. He has done something to us, and he will keep on doing more and more till he has made us perfect. Already, the image of Jesus Christ is, in a measure, set upon all his chosen; but the Lord will keep his hand at work upon us until he has made our likeness to Christ complete. “Beloved, how are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him,” for God’s own hand working continually upon us shall make us so, and then “we shall see him as he is.” Is there not much joy in this thought?

I think I ought to add here that, as, after our Lord had been smitten on Calvary, the day of Pentecost came, and thousands were ingathered, into the Church, and in that respect God’s hand was turned upon the little ones to gather them in, so I bless his name that he still has a chosen people whom he means to ingather with his almighty hand of gracious power, because he has smitten Christ in their room and stead. And my hope concerning every sinner here lies in this truth, that Jesus Christ has a people purchased with his blood, many of whom do not yet know this, and ignorant of them, are still lying outside the fold; but them also he might bring in, that there may be one flock (See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 1,713, “Other Sheep and One Flock.”) and one Shepherd. We preach the gospel to you unconverted people for this reason, because God, having smitten Christ in the sinner’s stead, has promised to lay his hand upon the little ones; and we trust that you may be among those upon whom he will lay his hand of omnipotent grace, and bring you in, that you may be his for ever.

O unconverted people, do learn from the text how much it cost the Savior to bear our sin! He had to be smitten with God’s sword though he was only bearing the sin of others; what will it cost you if you have to bear the punishment of your own sin for ever and ever? Tremble at that thought, and answer the question if you can. Christ sweat great drops of blood even while anticipating the agonies of the cross; and if you could know what it would be for you to have to suffer for your own sin for ever, it would not be extraordinary if you also were to sweat great drops of blood at this moment. It is such an awful thing to fall into the hands of the living God while unforgiven, so beware, ye whose sins are unpardoned, lest that sword, which has been sleeping with regard to you until now, should leap out of its scabbard, and pierce you to the heart. It must and will do so ere long if you remain unrepentant. If Christ had to suffer so much for the sins of others, how will you suffer when the burden of your own sins shall be laid upon you! See, sinners, the only way of peace for you; it is through Jesus suffering in your stead. Your debts to God you can never pay; nay, not one in a million of them, but Christ paid the debts of all who believe in him. You can make no atonement for yourself, but everyone who trusts in Jesus can claim his atonement for his own. Oh, may God’s infinite mercy move you to trust in Christ this very hour; and, that being done, the sword of justice will be sheathed so far as you are concerned, and God will burn his gracious hand upon you, and bless you from this time forward, and even for evermore.

As for you who are saved by Christ, see what you owe to him. By every groan he suffered, love him; by every pang he endured, love him; by the piercing of that sharp sword even to the death, love him; and as you love him, live for him; and as you love him, speak well of him; and as you love him, pray for the coming of his kingdom; and as you love him, keep his commandments; and as you love him, grow more and more into his likeness, every day you live, until you go to be with him for ever. God bless you, dear friends, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.