Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Idol Shepherd of Zechariah 11
In the Book of Zechariah there is a little known prophecy about one who is called the "idol shepherd." This man is clearly the chief shepherd of an idolatrous and apostate church system, and he himself is an idol or object of worship within this system. In all the centuries since Zechariah, only one personality, or dynasty of men, fulfills this prophecy -- THE POPES OF ROME. This article uncovers the truth about the "idol shepherd" and the blasphemous doctrines he promotes.
by John D. Keyser
Most people are acquainted with the concept of Yeshua as the Good Shepherd who gave up his life for the redemption of his Father's sheep. The sheep know his voice and they follow Yeshua as he leads them to eternal life -- and no man can pluck them out of his hand. However, in the Book of Zechariah we find a little known, and even less understood, prophecy about one who is described as being the "idol shepherd," one whose entire description is the direct opposite of all that the Bible teaches us in relation to the Good Shepherd --
"And YEHOVAH said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd. For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that which is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. 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" (Zechariah 11:15-17).
The Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament renders these verses as follows:
"And YEHOVAH said to me, Take yet to thee shepherd's implements belonging to an unskillful shepherd. For, behold, I will raise up a shepherd against the land: he shall not visit that which is perishing, and he shall not seek that which is scattered, and he shall not heal that which is bruised, nor guide that which is whole: but he shall devour the flesh of the choice ones, and shall dislocate the joints of their necks. Alas, for the vain shepherds that have forsaken the sheep! the sword shall be upon the arms of such a one, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be completely withered, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened."
Then, in the Jewish Tanakh, we read --
"YEHOVAH said to me further: Get yourself the gear of a foolish shepherd. For I am going to raise up in the land a shepherd who will neither miss the lost [sheep], nor seek the strayed, nor heal the injured, nor sustain the frail, but will feast on the flesh of the fat ones and tear off their hoofs. Oh, the worthless shepherd who abandons the flock! Let a sword descend upon his arm and upon his right eye! His arm shall shrivel up; his right eye shall go blind."
The Word of YEHOVAH -- which came by such prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel -- frequently warns us against such false shepherds who are nothing but wolves in sheep's clothing, hirelings who seek to deceive and destroy the very elect of YEHOVAH God. In these few verses Zechariah warns us against one false, cruel and deceptive shepherd in particular -- one who by his total inability to perform the duty of a spiritual shepherd, shows that he is in fact a stranger to, and an enemy of, the good news of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. This false shepherd is indicted first of all for the tasks he has failed to do: He has failed to heal the injured, sustain the flock or minister to the very needs of those who are "lost sheep" -- obviously a reference to the House of Israel, the cast off, divorced, dispersed people of YEHOVAH God, put away for their sins and described by the prophet Hosea as Lo Ammi -- "not My people." Instead, this false shepherd has taken care of his own needs and desires, feeding himself and those loyal to him, while at the same time discarding YEHOVAH's true flock and actually turning upon the flock and devouring them.
This personality is, then, more clearly described by the use of the all-important expression: the IDOL shepherd. He is not merely the chief shepherd of an idolatrous and apostate church system, but he himself is actually set up as an IDOL -- or object of worship within that system. In all the centuries since the time of Zechariah until now, only one person -- or to be more accurate, one dynasty of men -- fits the description given: THE POPES OF ROME. In order to demonstrate this more clearly, we must now look at the IDOL SHEPHERD --
1. Feeding himself at the expense of the flock.
2. Devouring the flock.
3. His system of idolatry.
4. He himself as an idol.
Following this, we will go on to examine YEHOVAH's judgment pronounced upon the idol shepherd.
Feeding Himself at the Expense of the Flock
Roman Catholicism is not merely a monolithic religious system, or a world-wide political conspiracy, it is also a system based upon greed and the love of money -- the very thing Yeshua said was the root of every evil. Truly it can be said that the popes of Rome have "feasted on the flesh of the fat"! One of the chief means by which the Papacy has enriched itself at the expense of the people is by means of the pagan doctrine of Purgatory. By this heinous teaching -- first proclaimed an Article of Faith in 1439 by the Council of Florence and subsequently confirmed in 1548 by the Council of Trent -- the Church of Rome teaches that all who die at peace with the church, but who are not perfect (pretty much most of us!) must suffer purification in a mythical intermediate state, or place for departed spirits.
The Creed of Pope Pius IV states --
"I constantly hold that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful."
Bellarmine taught that --
"There is absolutely no doubt that the pains of purgatory...endure for entire centuries."
Thomas Aquinas claimed that --
"It is the same fire that torments the reprobate in Hell and the just in Purgatory."
This very Satanic doctrine has often been referred to as "pick-pocket purgatory" and the "goldmine of the Papacy" because, in order to release their unfortunate loved ones whom they believe to be in this place of torment, deceived Roman Catholics will pay the priest to say special masses to release the souls from Purgatory. Money -- often large amounts -- is set aside by faithful Catholics when alive, in order to obtain their quick release from the prison house of souls. Frequently during their lifetime, devout Catholics will go on pilgrimages to IDOL-SHRINES and supposed holy places, hoping to earn merit which will reduce the time spent in purgatory. And, of course, all of these things can be obtained at a price! Salvation is for sale in the Roman Church and, by this cruel deceit, the Papacy -- the IDOL SHEPHERD of Zechariah -- has amassed a fortune running into the billions.
Closely linked with the doctrine of Purgatory is the belief in INDULGENCES -- pardons for sin that can be earned or purchased in this life. It was this horribly corrupt practice, advocated throughout Germany by the monk Tetzel in order to raise money for the building of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, that impelled Martin Luther to nail his famous Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenburg and thus launch the Reformation in Europe. In case anyone thinks this rotten practice of indulgences ended with the Middle Ages, let us read what the authoritative Twentieth Century Roman Catholic book The Question Box has to say --
"An Indulgence...is a remission of the whole, or part of the temporal punishment due to forgiven sin, granted by the Pope and the Bishops out of the Church's spiritual treasure, which is made up of the infinite redemptive merits of Jesus Christ, AND, the superabundant merits of the saints."
Indulgences can be bought for saying the Rosary, wearing the Agnus Dei, or the Scapular of the Blessed Simon Stock, or you can share in the storehouse of merit by joining the Confraternity of the Miraculous Medal, or the Society of the Perpetual Novena. In times past Indulgences were even given to those who murdered Protestants and Church of God brethren in the name of the Catholic Church --
"a plenary Indulgence was offered to all who took up arms against the Hussites, Albigenses and Waldenses" (Catholic Dictionary, p. 442).
In addition to this, the Roman Catholic Church has reaped rich financial rewards from such events as the "Holy Year" and pilgrimages to shrines, e.g. Lourdes, Fatima and even places like Knock in Ireland. These have become big financial tourist businesses. There can be little doubt that the IDOL SHEPHERD in the Vatican has fed and enriched himself and his hierarchy at the expense of his poor, spiritually deluded flock.
Devouring the Flock
Not only is the Papacy of Rome a system which is characterized by inordinate greed, corruption and vast wealth, but it is a system infamous for its cruelty and persecuting zeal. This, as we shall see, fits perfectly into Zechariah's description of he "shall dislocate the joints of their necks" -- tearing in pieces those who fall under his control. The burning of heretics was first decreed in the Seventh Century and the bloodthirsty Inquisition was established by the Pope of Rome to stamp out all opposition to his dictatorial rule and his false doctrines. This Inquisition was responsible for burning and torturing MILLIONS of Protestant and Church of God martyrs. At its tribunals, the accused were denied all legal representation and they never knew the identity of their accusers. Torture of the most horrific kind -- including stretching people on the rack and "dislocating their necks" -- was used for days on end to obtain confessions -- and those convicted were usually tortured again after their trials in order to obtain evidence against their family and friends. Far from repenting of these disgusting crimes, twentieth century Roman Catholic spokesmen have defended them, saying --
"Far from being inhuman, they (the Inquisitors) were as a rule, men of spotless character and...admirable sanctity...not a few have been canonized by the Church" (Catholic Encyclopedia, VIII 31).
"There is nothing exceptionally cruel or intolerant about the statute...which provided that heretics convicted before a spiritual court and refusing to recant, were to be handed over to the secular arm and burnt" (ibid., V 441).
I wonder what sort of "spiritual court" they are talking about here? Certainly NOT YEHOVAH's court!
In addition to such "legalized" persecution, the Catholic Church was responsible for inciting crusades, wars and civil wars which resulted in the cruel slaughter of more tens of thousands of Protestants and Church of God people. In the book The Israel of the Alps we read in detail of the fierce persecution of the Vaudois or Waldensians by the forces of the IDOL SHEPHERD. Here are a few extracts to illustrate our point:
"One Bernadino Cento was covered with pitch, and burned alive in the market place of Consenza. Another martyr, Mazzone, was stripped naked, his body shredded with iron whips, and the mangled frame then beaten to death with lighted brands. Some victims were flayed alive, and some flung from a tower summit. One of the latter named Samson, was a young man of prodigious strength. As his mangled body, still breathing, lay on the ground, the Viceroy passed and inquired, 'What carrion is this?' 'It is a heretic who will not die,' was the answer. With a kick at the dying man's head, the Viceroy said, 'Let the pigs come and eat him.' Soon the barbarous order was executed, and the poor creature had to suffer the pain of his flesh being torn from his body by the unclean beasts, set on him by a beast more unclean and foul than they."
Since the days of the 1641 massacre the land of Ireland has witnessed many wars of genocide designed to drive the Protestant population into the sea. One such time of murder and mayhem occurred during the 1790s when the Irish Protestants suffered cruelly at the hands of the Roman Catholic persecutors called the "Defenders." The historian Sibbett records that --
"civilians were mistreated, cattle maimed and crops destroyed...the most shocking barbarities were perpetrated in the County of Louth and neighbouring counties. In one year the Defenders plundered the homes of 180 Protestant families."
These attacks culminated in what is called the Forkhill Massacre, a fiendish attack by Catholics on the home of Alexander Barclay -- the Protestant schoolmaster in the village of Forkhill in South Armagh. On the night of February 1, 1791, a gang of armed Roman Catholics burst into his home, cut out his tongue and chopped off the fingers and thumb of his right hand. They did the same to his wife, and also hacked off her breasts -- an injury from which she died. Her brother also had his tongue cut out and the calves of his legs hacked away. Not improving with time, it was in this very area that Catholics slew several Protestant families in one night in 1922 in the infamous "Slaughter of Altnaveigh" and it is in this same district of South Armagh that the Roman Catholic terrorists of the I.R.A., I.N.L.A. and the "Catholic Reaction Force" have waged a war of genocide over the past many years, killing the heads of Protestant households, and participating in such bloody atrocities as the massacres of Whitecross, Tullyvallen and Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Church, where Protestants were slain as they worshipped. Without a doubt -- Rome never changes.
His System of Idolatry
Not only is Catholicism a system of cruelty and greed, but the chief characteristic of the whole Papal organization is BASE IDOLATRY, hence the inspired Zechariah calls the Papacy the IDOL SHEPHERD. The worship of images, idols and religious relics is a heathen practice clearly forbidden in the Word of YEHOVAH. For some three centuries after Yeshua, the early Christians chose martyrdom rather than participate in idolatry. But when Christianity became the state religion under Constantine, all this began to change. The heathen temples became "Christian" churches, the pagan idols were given the names of Saints and were soon being venerated. The pagan worship of the mother goddess, which had originated in the city of Babylon and spread to pagan Rome as the cult of Cybele, now evolved into the worship of the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven. It was in the city of Ephesus -- infamous for its worship of the goddess Diana -- that a Church Council, in 431 A.D., declared Mary to be the "Mother of God." As the idolatrous practices spread and increased throughout so-called Christendom, they received official legality in 788 A.D. at the Second Council of Nicea.
In these Ecumenical times, the Vatican seeks to conceal and deny idol worship within its church, but the decrees of the church make its position crystal clear --
"I most firmly assert that the images of Christ and the Mother of God...and also of the other saints, are to be had and retained, and that due honour and veneration are to be given to them" (Creed of Pope Pius IV).
"It is also right to honour the sacred images of Jesus Christ, and of the Saints...We also honour the relics of the Saints" (Compendium of Pope Pius X).
And further --
"The Saints reigning together with Christ are to be honoured and invocated that they offer up prayers to God for us, their relics are to be venerated" (Creed of Pope Pius IV).
Not to be outdone by the Papacy we find the following --
"Besides honouring the Saints directly in themselves, we also honour them indirectly in their relics and images...the Church requires the relics of the Saints to be inserted in all altars where Holy Mass is offered" (Students Catholic Doctrine by C. Hert).
"The Commandment does not forbid the making of images" (The Catechism, Canon Cafferata).
"The Saints...together with Christ are to be honoured and invoked because they offer prayers to God for us" (ibid.).
Many Roman Catholic Catechisms purposely omit the Second Commandment forbidding image worship, and seek to conceal this by splitting the Tenth into two parts. Rome even seeks to divide worship into three distinct types:
1. LATRIA -- To be given to God.
2. DULIA -- To be given to the Saints.
3. HYPERDULIA -- To be given to the Virgin Mary.
In spite of all denials to the contrary, Catholic handbooks and manuals of worship clearly expose the facts. In the Good Friday Service of Adoration of the Cross, we read --
"Behold the wood of the Cross -- Come let us adore...We adore thy Cross...Sweet wood, sweet nails...Hail then, O Cross!"
In St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral of New York can be found the following prayer to Saint Theresa --
"Saint Theresa who...became a mirror of angelic purity...cast a glance of pity on us as we leave all things in thy hands. Make our troubles your own, speak a word for us to our Lady Immaculate...beg her as Queen...by her powerful intercession, to obtain for us the graces we yearn for."
The devotion goes on:
"Little Theresa of the Child Jesus, remember your promise to make good things on earth. Drop your shower of roses over all in need."
To add to this blasphemy, we are told --
"The person who finds this prayer should copy it 20 times, and bring it to a church each time. On the 11th time, your prayers will be answered."
Catholic idolatry reached new heights in the worship of the Virgin Mary. The late Pope John Paul II made a point of visiting idolatrous Marian shrines around the world to show his devotion to this pagan tradition. In May 1982 he visited the Fatima Shrine in Portugal to show his gratitude to Our Lady of Fatima for supposedly saving his life from assassins the previous year. And, on March 25, 1984, he held a special ceremony in Rome to consecrate the entire world to Mary. Special groups are set up within Roman Catholicism to encourage Marian devotion. These include The Legion of Mary, The Arch-confraternity of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, and the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima. Roman Catholics are encouraged to participate in the Rosary devotions in which ten times as many prayers are given to Mary as to YEHOVAH. The book The Glories of Mary, by the Roman Catholic "Saint" Alphonsus Liguari, goes as far as to state:
"We often obtain more promptly what we ask by calling on Mary, than on Jesus."
What blasphemy! We could go on and on to give many more examples of blasphemous and idolatrous worship of the Virgin, the Saints and their images and relics -- but this article would get out of hand if we did!
The Pope Himself As an Idol!
Probably the very depths of idolatry are reached in the iniquity of Romanism with the worship of a sinful man, the Pope. When the Pope is crowned the following words are addressed to him --
"Receive this Tiara, adorned with three crowns, and know that Thou art Father of Kings and Princes, Ruler of the World and Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth."
At the enthronement of this so-called Vicar of Yeshua, the Pope is lifted up by the Cardinals and made to sit upon the High Altar in St. Peter's Basilica. The Cardinals in their Scarlet and Purple Vestments, kneel before the newly elected Pontiff and kiss his feet, hands and face -- worshipping him as a god. This takes place at least five times during the ceremony, which is called the Adoration.
It is important to realize that the High Altar in St. Peter's Basilica is the very place where the Reserved Sacrament, Rome's Wafer God of flour and water which they inform us has been changed into the body and blood of the Messiah, is kept and adored. When the Pope is enthroned ABOVE the High Altar and its Wafer God, he ceases to be merely a false shepherd and becomes the IDOL SHEPHERD OF ZECHARIAH'S PROPHECY, accepting the highest place of honor, veneration and worship that can be given to a mortal man.
It is also interesting to note that while sitting as a god above the High Altar, his feet, hands and face are kissed. Kissing as a religious exercise is one of the oldest known forms of idolatry, and it can be found mentioned in Job 31:27 -- where Job declares that he has not been guilty of joining in the pagan practice of kissing his hand to the sun. We should also note that the kissing of idols and images was practiced by the worshippers of Baal in the days of Elijah. Listen to what YEHOVAH actually told the prophet --
"I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him" (1 Kings 19).
It should therefore be obvious that the kissing of the Pope is nothing but a continuation of the ancient idolatrous worship associated with the heathen god Baal. At the coronation of Pope Innocent X, the following words were addressed to him:
"Most Holy and blessed father, head of the church, ruler of the world, to whom the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven are committed, whom the angels in Heaven adore, and the gates of hell fear, and all the world adores, we especially venerate, worship and adore thee."
There can be no doubt that the whole dynasty of popes fulfills the prophecy of the IDOL SHEPHERD.
The Doom of the Idol Shepherd
Zechariah leaves us on a note of encouragement -- assuring us that the IDOL SHEPHERD is destined to doom and destruction. The prophet writes that --
"The sword shall be upon his arm and upon his right eye, his arm shall be clean dried up, and his eye shall be utterly darkened."
There was a time when the popes of Rome ruled over Western Europe, holding undisputed sway and excommunicating and overthrowing kings and emperors at will. Such was the power of the Papacy that one particular pope boasted: "I can do almost all that God can do."
The arm and the eye of the IDOL SHEPHERD symbolize the spiritual and political power of the Papacy, and both of these have indeed been darkened, consumed and dried up since the time of the Reformation.
YEHOVAH's Word, the Bible, has been freely distributed leading multitudes of Roman Catholics out of the cage of the IDOL SHEPHERD and into the fold of YEHOVAH's true church. Internally, the modern Papacy faces revolt and dissent at every turn within the ranks of both clergy and laity. The nations that once wielded the sword on behalf of the Vatican -- Spain, Portugal, France and Italy -- are now democratic countries within the framework of modern Europe. In February 1984, many of the special privileges granted to the Vatican by Mussolini under the Lateran Treaty of 1929 were stripped away. We are living in the prophetic era which will see the "stripping and burning" of the harlot church system spoken of in Revelation 17 and 18. Soon the Messiah will return to gather up the lost sheep of the House of Israel and his Father YEHOVAH God will return shortly thereafter in His Shekinah Glory to finally destroy what remains of the Papal IDOL SHEPHERD by the "brightness of His coming." Until that day we must continue our witness to all people that salvation is to be found in YEHOVAH God alone through His High Priest Yeshua the Messiah. Salvation cannot be found in any pope, priest or pastor, not in any image, idol, saint or miraculous medal. "For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which [or through which] we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
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