The Shepherds and God’s Flock
Open Your Bible
Ezekiel 34:1-31, Ezekiel 35:1-15, Psalm 23:1-4, John 10:11-14
BY Erin Davis
I’m a bona fide shepherdess. My little midwestern farm often has sheep grazing in the pasture. When I hear sermons about how dumb sheep are, my eyes automatically want to roll. (Sorry, pastor.) Those fluffy white creatures aren’t dumb (at least not any more so than the next barnyard animal), but they are vulnerable. Because rain and wolves, disease and disaster are always nearby, all sheep need a shepherd—a good one.
Here in Ezekiel 34, after pages and pages of prophetic warnings, the word of the Lord appeared to Ezekiel again, this time to pronounce judgment on “the shepherds of Israel” (Ezekiel 34:1). As I read these verses through the lens of my farm, they seem less of a rant against shepherds and more of a manifesto about God’s love. Consider:
“You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost. Instead you have ruled them with violence and cruelty. They were scattered for lack of a shepherd; they became food for all the wild animals when they were scattered.” —Ezekiel 34:4–5
While this could fit as a bad performance review for literal shepherds, if we keep reading, we find hyperbole.
“My flock went astray on all the mountains and every high hill. My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and there was no one searching or seeking for them.” —Ezekiel 34:6
God was speaking to Ezekiel about more than barnyard animals. This flock was made up of His children. God’s people were, in fact, scattered. Many were in captivity at the time of Ezekiel’s vision. Others were made homeless by the destruction of invading nations. Still, there’s a deeper truth. There is no human shepherd who can truly keep us safe from the dangers of sin. Our spiritual leaders are broken, too. Our good deeds aren’t a safe pen. Our hearts sing siren songs toward unsafe territories. Though we aren’t stupid, we are vulnerable.
But hallelujah, we have a good Shepherd! In John 10, Jesus declared Himself as the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” –John 10:11
Yes, we’re prone to wander toward all manner of dangers. We do have an enemy who prowls around looking for an opportunity to devour us (1Peter 5:8). Still, Ezekiel’s prophecy points out that Christ’s great love for us motivates Him to pay attention to our needs. Our Good Shepherd is ever on guard!