Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 30 2019 - Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds and sheep

David was a shepherd boy before the Lord anointed him as king over his people Israel. David wrote many of the psalms but perhaps the best known is Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd…" In this psalm David meditates on the Lord's care for him which he sees as similar, though far more wonderful than the way in which he cared for his sheep. The Lord is not only his shepherd, but has called David to care for his people in the same way. The leaders among God's people should be shepherds of his people.

This theme is picked up in Ezekiel chapter 34. God had called the leaders in Jerusalem and Judah to act as shepherds to his people, caring for their needs and leading them in the way that they should go. But, the Lord declares through Ezekiel, these shepherds have cared only for themselves. They have seen the people as a resource to be exploited, like shepherds who feed on the milk and make themselves cheese and even kill the choice animals from the flock to feed themselves. They have not looked after the injured or lame. Their neglect has led to the sheep being scattered on the mountains and becoming a prey to wild animals (vv. 2-7). The Lord is going to hold these "shepherds" accountable for their neglect. They will be removed from tending the flock (vv. 8-10a).

The leaders of God's people had led them into idolatry rather than leading them in devotion to the Lord their God. Their disobedience had led to captivity: the leaders of God's people had been taken away into captivity, the people had been scattered among the nations – some had gone down into Egypt – and now Jerusalem and the temple have been destroyed.

But this is not the end of the story of God's dealings with his people. As in the days when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, so again, the Lord will come to rescue his people – The Lord declares, "I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them" (v. 10b).

Having sacked the self-centred "shepherds", the Lord will himself take on the role of shepherding his people. He will search out the lost sheep, rescue them from the places where they have been scattered and bring them safely home. He will lead them in green pastures and they will lie down and not be afraid. The Lord will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak but will destroy those who have made themselves fat at the expense of others: he will "shepherd the flock with justice." The Lord will judge between the sheep and the goats (vv. 16,17). He will save his flock so that "they will no longer be plundered" (v. 22). The Lord is going to make a "covenant of peace" (v. 25) with his redeemed people. "'You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God', declares the Sovereign Lord" (v.31).

This wonderful promise that the Lord will come to the rescue of his scattered people is ultimately fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Good Shepherd, the unparalleled Leader and Redeemer of his people – he laid down his life for the sheep that they might have life through him. He is the one who is redeeming and gathering together a people for himself from every nation under heaven, making them one flock under one shepherd. He is the one who calls for his sheep to follow him, and those who are his sheep hear his voice and do follow him. He is the one who goes before us to prepare a place for us in glory and will come to take us to be with him.

Part of following him means that we too are to be good shepherds who go in his name to seek out those who are lost and encourage them to come home. We are to be good shepherds who care one for another and especially care for those who are weak and injured by the battles of life.

Father God, we thank you for your redeeming love seen especially in the Lord Jesus. Through Jesus death and resurrection you have made a covenant of peace with us and you enable us to rest secure in him. We rejoice in your saving care. Help us to show the same care for those around us that they also may be drawn into your flock and find in Jesus the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls.

Peter Misselbrook