The adventure through the book of Ezekiel continues, and last night after reading chapter 34 I was so encouraged by the faithfulness of our God to keep His promises to His people – stretching all the way past the days of the Old Testament to us today, and beyond!
Fear not the harsh Shepherds
“Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.” Ezekiel 34:2b-3
A sheep is utterly dependent on its shepherd for safety, food, guidance, even its very life – and this dependance evokes an image of being under authority. There may be times when we are under harsh or even wicked authorities, whether that be in politics/government, school, the church, employment, or even at home. We are to respond to authority with reverence for Christ* (Romans 13, Titus 2:9-10), acknowledging that God will one day bring about justice to all (Romans 12:19, Hebrews 10:30-31), and He will be the one to fulfill all of our needs as our Heavenly Father (Psalm 23).
*I would also like to acknowledge that reverence to Christ and submission to authority can and does include seeking justice if something is unlawfully done against you – if you are in an abusive relationship, or someone has acted unlawfully against you, you can and should seek justice from the governing authorities, as well as seeking to resolve a situation through forgiveness and reconciliation.
Fear not the fat sheep
“As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats…I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock” Ezekiel 34:17,20-22a
A parallel of these verses can be seen in Matthew 25:30-46, when Jesus is speaking about his second coming: He will sort between the sheep (true believers) and the goats (those who think they are believers, but are not). The sheep will be on His right, and they will consist of those who believed the gospel and were generous and loving to the least of people, which Jesus equates as if they were doing so to Him (v. 35-36). On his left will be the goats, those who believed themselves righteous but lived without compassion or mercy for those weaker than themselves – evidence of a false faith. These people will be rejected by Christ (v. 41-45).
God knows everyone’s heart as well as their true spiritual nature, so when you encounter people who speak one way and act another, fear not – God will ensure complete justice is done in the end. Don’t be discouraged when you see others who seem ‘more religious’ or ‘better at being Christian’ than you. God opposes the proud, and always works through those who humble themselves to Him. Instead of focusing on others, look ahead to Christ (Hebrews 12:2).
Revel in God’s promises
Look away from those who are blatantly unfaithful or flimsy in their devotion – and look instead to Christ and His promises. A plethora of these can be found in Ezekiel 34:10-31 alone:
- I am against the (wicked) shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock (v.10)
- I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves (v.10)
- I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and (they) will no longer be food for them (v.10).
- I myself will search for my sheep and look after them (v.11)
- I will rescue them from the places where they were scattered (v.12)
- I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries (v.13)
- I will pasture them (v.13)
- I will tend them in a good pasture (v.14)
- I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down (v.15)
- I will search for the lost and bring back the strays (v.16)
- I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak (v.16)
- I will shepherd the flock with justice (v.16)
- I will save my flock (v. 22)
- I will place over them one shepherd (v.23)
- I the Lord will be their God (v.24)
- I will make a covenant of peace with them (v.25)
- I will bless them (v.26)
- They will know that I am the Lord (v.27)
- I will provide for them (v.29)
- They will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them (v.30)
So in one chapter, we find more than 20 promises for God’s people. Some of these are messianic and will come about when Jesus returns (v.23-24, 26-29), and the rest are already true in Christ. But the fulfillment of all of these, and the rest of God’s promises throughout Scripture, will come about when our Good Shepherd is reinstated over us (John 10:14-15) at the end of the age. So be encouraged – we have a beautiful glory to look forward to in Christ!