by Pastor Mark Hudson
Ezekiel 34 spreads its tentacles backward and forward to Biblical literature touching all the significant figures in the Bible. God is designated as the chief Shepherd (I Pt. 5:4) and God’s people are described as the sheep of God’s pasture (Ps. 74:1; 100:3). For the ancient Near East, the metaphor of sheep and shepherding was well known. You will notice
34:1-10 The removal of the corrupt monarch;
34:11-22 The restoration of theocracy
34:23-31 The reign of peace (Christopher J.H. Wright. P. 274ff)
In vs. 1-10, observe how this is not Ezekiel’s personal observation. This is not his perspective. The word of the Lord comes to him in v. 1. He introduces his message with, “Thus says the Lord.” A minister can’t say that about the sermon or a teaching. Rather we point our listeners to the Scripture as the word of God. But our words are not from God in the way that Ezekiel claims.
While the prophet holds the people accountable for their sin, he also holds the leaders, i.e. kings, responsible for their ungodly, harsh, and selfish leadership. These shepherds are feeding themselves (v. 2). “Should not shepherds feed the sheep?” While shepherds need to eat the problem is “you do not feed the sheep” v. 3. Instead of tenderness, compassion, and caring for the weak, sick, injured, those who have strayed, and the lost, they have ruled with force and harshness (v. 4).
Sadly, this is familiar. Did Ezekiel have Jeremiah 23:1-6 open as he wrote this? This content and tone is not new and will be continued in the New Testament (John 10). Ezekiel’s prophecy is strong. Just imagine a shepherd who acts this way. Shepherding is an arduous, self-sacrificing, and oriented-to-the sheep kind of life style. But these shepherds were getting fat and paying little attention to the sheep so the sheep wandered off “over the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them” v. 6.
So God is “against the shepherds” (v. 10) a phrase I would never want God to say about me. Essentially, the kings of Israel are like all the enemies of God. They are enemies to their own people and enemies of God. The sheep are “my sheep” in v. 10 emphasizing the personal connection God feels for His people. “The sheep needs rescuing from heir own shepherds” (C. Wright p. 276). Once again, God’s people have become the people they defeated. They, in fact, were worse since they knew God’s laws and mercy and still rejected Him.
In vs. 11-22, the rule of Yahweh is marked by
13b-16 tending and feeding
The ingathering is spoken about in many verses. God promises to bring His people back to Himself. Here are a few in the O.T.
Deut 30:3 He will gather you from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.
Jer. 23:3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock, out of all the countries where I have driven them
29:14 gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you . . . .
31:8 . . . gather them from the farthest parts of the earth.
32:37 I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath . . . .
Ez. 11:17 I will gather you from the peoples . . . where you have been scattered.
20:34, 41 I will . . . gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered
28:25 When I gather the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered
Verses 13b-16 speak of tending and feeding the sheep. Here are passages where we read of this Gen 48:15-16 ( a tender, touching passage), Ps. 23, Is 40:11 (these are all wonderful passages that remind us of God’s compassion). Ez 34:16 is an especially thrilling verse where God promises to make things right saying, “I will” repeatedly.
Then vs. 17-22 remind us of an equally important part of God’s reign: justice. The body still needs leadership to demand justice. To be just is not easy. Being just requires courage, wisdom, and a desire for everyone to be treated fairly. This is a call to all in authority since God’s authority and justice is mediated through people. Leaders must understand how critical justice is to God and see the repeated emphasis of justice in both Old and New Testaments.
Finally the reign of peace is found in 34:23-31 where we will see in vs.
23-24 a new Davidic ruler,
25-29 a new experience of peace and harmony and
30-31 a new affirmation of the covenant relationship between God and His people.
In verses 23-24, the new is really the old – David as King which Christians understand as Jesus Christ. Then in vs. 25-29, the safety, security (v. 28), peace and harmony means no wild beasts (v. 25), they will experience a shower of blessing (v. 26), and their farming will yield an abundant crop (v. 27). This covenant relationship, where the Lord is their God and they are “My people) is the heart of the covenant.
In a book that has been a bit adversarial, know we are witnessing the hope of promised blessing which is what God longs to give His people. Since He is holy, He must punish sin. But He is a giver and wants to provide the best blessings which is Himself.
Dear Heavenly Father, You are the true Shepherd of our souls and we are the oft straying, yet deeply loved sheep. As Joseph said, You have been our Shepherd all our lives. We hear Your voice and follow you. Thank you for the shepherds You have given us. We also pray for our government realizing we do not live in a theocracy yet these elected and appointed officials are important to both our country and our lives. Thank You for the true Davidic King that came once and will come again in might and power finally putting an end to all opposition to His just and righteous rule. We long for that day. In Christ’s mighty name we pray. Amen.