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In ancient times, society primarily revolved around agriculture, and the shepherd was both a common figure in literature, and a familiar sight in real life. The Old Testament uses the image of the shepherd to portray God's loving care for Israel. (Think of Psalm 23 . . . "the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want...." In addition to God, kings and other leaders of Israel were also pictured as shepherds, especially the religious leaders, who were responsible for teaching and guiding the people. Many times, though, the leadership of Israel became corrupt.
Let's look at a passage in Ezekiel 34, which shows just how displeased God was with these irresponsible leaders:
1The word of the Lord came to me: 2“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.
Pretty tough words, right? They had obviously disappointed Him by not doing their job! He says that He is judging them because they abused their power, and they took advantage of the people -- even letting them wander away from Him.
Later in Ezekiel, though, we see a wonderful promise. Look at verses 11 and following:
For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.What a comfort these verses can be to our hearts! God is promising to be the chief shepherd. He says He will care for His people, and He will bless them. He even talks about administering justice, and then finally in verses 22-24 He says:
I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.This is one of the prophecies from God, promising to put a son of David on the Throne, and to make Him a good shepherd. Here in Ezekiel, the Father is confirming to us that 1.) He will be the shepherd, and 2.) The son of David will be the shepherd.
And Jesus is the perfect, complete fulfillment of both of those promises.
It’s obvious from Scripture that Jesus is our Shepherd, but the main point we struggle to remember is that we are sheep. And this chapter is going to give us insights on what it means to live life as sheep.
Join me next time, won't you?