The prophet Ezekiel hears the word of the Great Shepherd, “Behold I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.” (Eze. 34:11-12). The Lord reveals to Ezekiel the Shepherd’s labor in redeeming his people from the darkness of captivity in Babylon, which was their house of bondage; which is illustrated in their deliverance from Egypt: “For the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed” (Josh. 24:17). The Shepherd’s words, “I will both search my sheep, and seek them out,” reveals both the Shepherd’s unrelenting search for his lost sheep, and his undivided attention in caring for the sheep of his pasture.
The Lord sought out Zacchaeus and he became one of his sheep. His change of heart was revealed in his testimony: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” Christ then declared himself as the Great Shepherd of the sheep: “This day is salvation come to this house forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10). We also come to the Shepherd of our souls, redeemed and fed by him: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption; whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:14-15). Our Savior has saved us from the bondage of sin and keeps us as his own: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15).
The Lord has brought judgment upon the sheep of his pasture, especially to those who led them in the way of false idols: “As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock” (34:8). Therefore the Lord promises that the wicked shepherds will no longer feed his sheep and his flock will be delivered from them: “Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock: neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them” (34:10). The under-shepherds of Christ’s church are take warning if they do not feed the flock from the treasure of God’s Word.
The Lord is our Shepherd: “Behold, I, even I will both search my sheep, and seek them out.” He gives us his peace in green pastures, “he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps. 23:2-3). Is the flock underfed because the voice of the pulpit is self-feeding rather than hear the hunger and thirst of the congregation that they may see the Good Shepherd and receive the food of his Word? The resurrected Lord spoke to Peter, saying, “Simon, son of Jona, lovest thou me more than these?” Peter answered, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” Jesus replied, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15). Years later Peter would admonish the elders of the church: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly” (1 Peter 5:2).
The Shepherd continues to speak to his flock through his servant Ezekiel, promising deliverance and true feeding of the soul (34:12-16). Note that it is the Lord whose promises rest upon the words, “I will.” The Sovereign Lord is the Shepherd whose words are true, without a blemish. The chosen under-shepherd preaches, teaches, seeks to guide and feed the flock, not by “I will,” but by the words of the “I AM” Jehovah God. In other words, when the under-shepherd feeds the flock self is hidden and Christ is revealed. Thus Ezekiel proclaims the Eternal Shepherd’s words: “As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among the sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.” The Shepherd continues the promise saying that he will from the countries to which the were scattered, “and feed them upon the mountains of Israel.” He continues, “I will feed them in a good pasture … I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down … I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and I will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick.” The Christ fulfills these promises in these few words of his, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Discussion: What comforts are promised us in the words of the Good Shepherd?
The Lord declares his judgment upon the wicked shepherds who feed themselves, saying, “I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgments” (34:21). As for the Lord’s flock, he declares, “Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the goats.” Christ declares his eternal judgment, saying, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:31-34).
The rich and the strong oppressed the Lord’s flock, of which he spoke, “as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.” The Lord will be the judge between the “fat cattle and between the lean cattle,” warning, “Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad; therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey.”
A Savior is promised, a Messiah who will establish his eternal kingdom, and in David Ezekiel and the people will see this promise honored: “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it.” The Messiah, “He shall have his commission from God himself: I will set him up … I will raise him up, … He sanctified and sealed him, appointed and anointed him. He shall be the great Shepherd of the sheep, who shall do that for his flock, which no one else could do. He is the one Shepherd, under whom Jews and Gentiles should be one fold. He is God’s servant, employed by him and for him, and doing all in obedience to his will, with an eye to his glory – his servant, to re-establish his kingdom among men and advance the interests of that kingdom. He is David, one after God’s own heart, set as his King upon the holy hill of Zion, made the head of the corner, with whom the covenant of royalty is made, and to whom God would give the throne of his father David. He is both the root and offspring of David. (M. Henry). The promise was fulfilled in the incarnation of the Son of God; as the angel spoke to Mary, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus (Joshua = Jehovah is salvation). He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall b no end” (Luke 1:31-33).
Discussion: How is the Great Shepherd both Judge and Savior of his flock?
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