Zechariah 11:7 So, on behalf of the sheep merchants (“sheep merchants” is a metaphor for the rulers of Israel who profited by cheating their own people), I (God) became the shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter. I took two staffs; one I named Favor, the other I named Unity, and I tended the sheep. 8 In one month I disposed of the three shepherds (the unfaithful rulers of Israel), for I had become impatient with them, and they also detested me. 9 So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die; what is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed; and let those that are left devour the flesh of one another!” 10 I took my staff Favor and broke it, …14 Then I broke my second staff Unity, annulling the family ties between Judah and Israel.
The Assyrian army was marching across northern Israel toward the south where the holy city of Jerusalem was located. For generations God’s people had been divided between a northern kingdom (Israel) and a southern kingdom (Judah). Instead of fighting together they spent many years often fighting among themselves. As a result they were severely weakened by the time this passage was written. Eventually the entire nation was overrun and most of the surviving people of God were sent to exile in Babylon.
It strikes me this morning the role that unity plays in the strength of a people. In the US we appear to be a people severely divided politically, religiously, economically, and so on. I remember how things were after the attacks of 9/11 – how united we became as a people because we had been attacked from the outside. I just wish that sense of unity had lasted, but it didn’t.
There’s something in our DNA that compels human beings to fight one another. We appear to be a fundamentally territorial, predatory species, often to our detriment. Lord have mercy upon us. Amen.