Two weeks ago, my church, Believers Church, started a new series called Once Upon a Time. During this series, we are looking at 8 specific parables told by Jesus. The first parable we reviewed was The Good Shepard found in John 10:1-42. I wrote a post about this very passage several months back called Are You Sheepish? You can read that post at
This week, I want to focus on another passage that parallels the scripture verses in the book of John, but is found in Ezekiel. It was mentioned as extra reading for our Be Group (or Small Group) study. So turn with me to Ezekiel 34:1-24.*
I love how the Bible weaves together the old and the new. The Lord often uses simple imagery to get His point across. In the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, we see shepherds and sheep, but occasionally goats are thrown into the mix. In these passages we will look at, Ezekiel is speaking to the people of Israel. As is the case with many Old Testament Scriptures, the meaning behind the Scriptures still rings true today.
Let’s start with the shepherds:
Then this message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign Lord: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? …This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock.” … Ezekiel 34: 1-2, 10
At the time it was delivered, this message was directed at the religious leaders of Israel, who were by all accounts taking advantage of their position versus carrying out their God-given duties. The warning can also be applied to anyone professing to be a pastor or teacher of the Word. Spiritual leaders are held to a high standard. How they manage their ministry matters. People can certainly be led astray by false doctrines or religions, but they can also be poorly guided by those who claim to follow Christ. God’s ability to see the heart gives Him the right to hold such leaders accountable and deal with their actions accordingly.
Then the passages begin to tell how the Lord will care for His sheep:
“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. …I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak.” … Ezekiel 34:11, 15-16
Quite a different picture than the one we read earlier. Such love and attention is promised in these verses. Did you realize God is seeking you? Did you catch what He is willing to do: “give them a place to lie down in peace, bandage the injured, strengthen the weak.” Who wouldn’t want such a caretaker? Yet, there are those who refuse His offer.
“And as for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says to his people: I will judge between one animal of the flock and another, separating the sheep from the goats.” Ezekiel 34:17
Wait, weren’t we just discussing a shepherd and his sheep? Where did the goats come from, and who are they? There are times within the Bible, that God uses the image of a goat to represent those far from Him. Why? Perhaps because by nature goats are independent and stray from the fold eagerly. Those who refuse God’s invitation want their own way, and so goats are a perfect representation of the nature of a sinner still aligning themselves with the world ways. God is most willing to care for each and every one of us, but there must be, and will be, a time of separation among those that follow God and all others.
So what about the sheep? Sheep by nature are more community driven, they like to stay in a group. However, since we, the followers of Christ, are all works in progress, there are some issues in the herd. Therefore, God continues His division of the animals, but this time He is dividing sheep:
“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will surely judge between the fat sheep and the scrawny sheep. For you fat sheep pushed and butted and crowded my sick and hungry flock until you scattered them to distant lands.” Ezekiel 34:20-21
Suddenly, I feel the urge to put down the piece of chocolate I am holding! Fortunately, God is not discussing the actual physical size of the sheep, but is using it to represent the ‘heart’ of His people. Those who are in the faith should never push, butt, or crowd others in the faith, but so often we do see this happening. Do you wear your spirituality like a coat for all to see, or do you put your faith in action so that your love for God pours out of you, naturally attracting others. Caution: God holds the shears! You may be in line for a trim!
In summary, the passage in Ezekiel gives us a clear picture of the Savior, our sovereign Shepherd:
So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another. And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among my people. I, the Lord, have spoken! Ezekiel 34:22-24
Often in the Old Testament, the lineage of David is declared when prophecy concerning the Messiah is given. The Jewish people understood, from early times, the family line their Savior would come from, and that His rule would be infinite. As Christians today, we can easily insert the name of Jesus within this passage. He was, He is, and He will always be the Good Shepherd. Rest in His care today.
*All scriptures taken from the New Living Translation.
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.