"Bad Shepherds, Good Shepherds"
I’ve never raised sheep, but even I know this passage is talking about some bad shepherds. They’re doing everything wrong! They take and take and take from the sheep all while doing none of what shepherds are supposed to do to care for the sheep. They are seriously bad shepherds.
And so, God says He Himself shall become the Shepherd of His flock.
This passage, of course, isn’t about sheep and shepherds at all. It is about the leaders of the people, the ones with authority and power who used their positions not for the benefit of those they were called to serve, but instead to enrich and engorge themselves.
Far removed as we are from the agrarian society to which Ezekiel spoke, and distant as the shepherding life might seem for us, we are surely all-too-easily able to identify with this passage. We too often find ourselves with leaders who do not live up to the high ideals of sacrificial, servant leadership. To hear that God will be coming to kick all those scoundrels with whom we disagree out of office and placing Himself on the throne might, at first, be thrilling to our souls. Come, Lord Jesus, come! But should we hesitate at least a little in our excitement?
God is a Good Shepherd and a Just King for all people. God is a Good Shepherd who not only gets rid of the bad shepherds who harm the sheep, but also brings justice among the sheep themselves. When the new, Good Shepherd comes, proper order will be restored, not just at the top, but all the way through the flock. As we prepare for the arrival of our new Good Shepherd, we should ponder how we measure up. How are you treating God’s other sheep? Are their lives made more treacherous by your decisions? Are you made a fat sheep by the way you mistreat the lean ones? If we ask these difficult questions of ourselves even now while bad shepherds rule the day and while we await the arrival of the Good Shepherd, we might just—by God’s grace—live as the kind of sheep worthy of the coming Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd is coming to bring justice and judgment to the flock. Are you ready?
Ezekiel 34:1-24 (ESV):
Prophecy Against the Shepherds of Israel
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.
7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 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,9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 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.
The Lord GOD Will Seek Them Out
11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 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. 13 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. 14 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. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 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.
17 “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
20 “Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 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. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.