In our earlier blog, I was mentioning how the passage in Ezekiel 34 seems very modern. In the following blogs on Ezekiel 34, I would like to settle on the 4th verse for a bit.
Ezek 34 :4
The diseased have ye not strengthened,
neither have ye healed that which was sick,
neither have ye bound up [that which was] broken,
neither have ye brought again that which was driven away,
neither have ye sought that which was lost;
but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.
This verse defines the failures of the shepherds of Israel during Ezekiel’s time. Instead of simply finding fault, (due as it may be), I would rather contrast these shepherds with the Good Shepherd that we seek to follow.
- The Good Shepherd that God has placed over us.
Ezek 34 :23-24 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 Good Shepherd that is against the evil shepherds.
Ezek 34 :9-10a Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I [am] against the shepherds…;
- The Good Shepherd that delivers His sheep.
Ezek 34 :9-10ff … 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.
Should Not the Shepherds Feed the Flock.
Recalling the previous verses in Ezekiel 34, the emphasis of God’s complaint against the shepherds is that they are not feeding the sheep. The key characteristic of a true shepherd is to feed the flock.
When Jesus was restoring Peter, He reiterated three times to feed the flock.
John 21 :15-17 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
The last words Jesus told His apostles was to be “teaching them to observe all that I command”
Peter got it! He understood the responsibility of a shepherd and passed on this key characteristic to his readers.
1Pet 5 :2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Paul got it too! And he passed it on to his readers!
Acts 20 :28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
1Cor 9 :7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
2Tim 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Golly – the very passage in Ezekiel 34 speaks of the priority of teaching within the Shepherds ministry to His flock. God will set up the Shepherd, and the first activity He is seen to perform is to feed the sheep.
Ezekiel 34:23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them…
It is obvious that God will feed His sheep, and that He has supplied the Good Shepherd to perform this ministry. Feeding the sheep is the emphasis of the Good Shepherd, but God wants to express His all-encompassing concern for His sheep by describing the various other activities that are the responsibility of the Shepherd that pleases God.
Verse 4 has a number of clauses that define the actions of the evil shepherds. The Good Shepherd is described in the New Testament as fulfilling each of the activities God is addressing when He rebukes the evil shepherds. I loved seeing this – how that the Good Shepherd supplies the very needs of the sheep as opposed to those who simply abuse the flock for self-gratification.
Ezek 34 :4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up [that which was] broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.
Remember that the principle complaint against the shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel’s day was that they did not feed the sheep. The following clauses show how their utter disregard for the sheep, (typified by their not feeding the sheep) was expressed in other ways. The issue in this blog is that the shepherds were not healing the sheep.
“The diseased have ye not strengthened” – HE STRENGTHENS THE FLOCK
Matt 12 :17-21 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
The true Shepherd will be gentle with the flock, seeking to encourage a smoking flax to reignite, and refusing to damage a bruised reed. This concept has been very refreshing to me, teaching me that the Lord’s attitude toward a weak child is not that of sneering at them, or despising them or ridiculing them. He will strengthen them, even at the point of greatest weakness.
A bruised reed has no structural strength. It is literally useless. So often, I consider those that are damaged to be useless, but this seems so anti-Christlike. His attitude is to strengthen the flock, and the verse above exhibits His attitude towards the weakest and hopeless condition. (Ever try to get smoking flax to reignite?)
Luke 22 :32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
The true Shepherd strengthens His people, sometimes through very unexpected methods. This passage is reflecting the time of Jesus speaking with Peter after his denial. How small Peter must have felt, how unworthy! Yet Jesus, in giving the command to strengthen the brethren, strengthened Peter. Peter needed to know how Jesus felt about him and Jesus trusts him with caring for the flock. This is something wonderful!
Acts 18 :23 And after he had spent some time [there], he departed, and went over [all] the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.
The Spirit of the Good Shepherd will be reflected in mutual encouragement among His people, in their communion with each other. Who is your Shepherd? Your Pastor?
His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. But if you are in a religious system (a church) that does not allow you to obey your Lord, either through your conscience, the written Word or otherwise, it may be profitable to compare your earthly shepherd with the Good Shepherd.
As we venture through the remaining parts of the verse, it will become obvious that Jesus is the perfect anti-type of these wicked shepherds. The sheep hear His voice and they follow.