Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ezekiel 34: Shepherding

Moving on to chapter 34 of Ezekiel (from the Ezekiel 33 quadilogy), God speaks a devastating judgment against the "shepherds" of Israel.
As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. (Ezekiel 34:8-10 ESV)
Instead of leading and protecting the sheep of Israel, these shepherds were feeding themselves on fat of the flock! Shepherds indeed. These men sound more like the wolves that Paul warns against in Acts 20:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30 ESV)
And so the contemporary lesson can be easily drawn. Paul is speaking to the Ephesian elders, and in verse 28 uses the verb poimainō, which the ESV translates as "care", but more closely matches "shepherd." The real shepherds need to watch for the fake ones, the wolves. Rather than caring for or feeding the flock, they feed themselves on the flock. It happened the same way in Ezekiel's time that it can happen today, and the result is the same: it scatters and kills the flock. This is why Paul has character standards for those who seek the office of elder (see 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1).

The great news from all of this is that God says, "I will rescue my sheep from their mouths" in verse 10 of Ezekiel 34. Read the very next paragraph and listen for the redemptive plan:
“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. (Ezekiel 34:11-16 ESV)
Rather than point out the obvious, I will simply end with Scripture quotes:
  • I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11 ESV)
  • For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 ESV)
  • the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (Matthew 11:5 ESV)
  • For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:27 ESV)
  • From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Revelation 19:15 ESV)
And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. (Ezekiel 34:23-24 ESV)

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