Ezekiel 33-34: Shepherds and Sheep
November 13, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
If any had been tempted to think that God’s message through Ezekiel was mere “doom and gloom,” God makes it clear that the warnings that have been given are intended so that people can repent and live. What is more, he makes it clear that there is a responsibility on the “watchman” to issue these warnings; otherwise, the blood of the people who have not been warned, and thus cannot repent, will be on the head of the mute watchman.
A messenger then comes to Ezekiel from Jerusalem saying “the city has been struck down” (33:21). Apparently, the inhabitants remain unreasonably confident in Abraham’s blessing, and the covenant commitment of the land (33:24), even though they are not following God or keeping the terms of the covenant. “You rely on the sword, you commit abominations, and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife; shall you then possess the land?” (33:26).
But this warning of Ezekiel’s will go unheard. For them he is but a skilled orator, someone making beautiful sounds, but not someone whose word they will heed: “And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it” (33:32). Many of God’s leaders at the time, the “shepherds,” are not fulfilling their duty to look after the “sheep,” the people. “Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?” (34:2).
And so God, in time to come, will himself act. “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out” (34:11). “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” (34:16). “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” (34:23).
It is hard to read this section without thinking of that “Good Shepherd” of the sheep, Jesus himself. There will, in time to come, be a “covenant of peace” (34:25). “And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the LORD” (34:27). This desire for God to be known by his people emerges again (34:27, 30). The relationship between God and his people will one day be fully restored and put right: “And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD” (34:31).
Messengers, then, are to deliver God’s message. Shepherds are to feed God’s sheep. And sheep are to hear the message from God and turn to God and live.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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