Ezekiel 34: A new leader (part four)

This is week two of a series in Ezekiel 33-37, about God’s promised reboot of his people. If you’ve just joined, you can either go to the start of the series, or simply begin the new chapter with us starting from Monday’s post.

The last few days have focused on the leaders of God’s people. But it’s not just the shepherds who get a word from Ezekiel; the sheep get a message, too. Let’s look at the rest of the chapter now.

The flock judged with justice

Ezekiel 34:17 “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.”

Although the whole flock is addressed, it’ll soon become clear that it’s the wealthier ones who are about to be critiqued for their failure to share with the poor.

Ezekiel 34:18-19 “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?”

Or to put it in terms some in my household might understand: is it not enough for you to use up almost all of the milk? Must you leave the rest out of the fridge overnight?

This is about gross economic inequality. Not only did some in Israel have more than others; they were spoiling what was left over so the poor didn’t stand a chance. Like the pushy seagulls at the front, they made sure they got all the chips—even after they’d had more than they could stomach—just so the weak, one-legged ones at the back didn’t get any.

Ezekiel 34:20-22 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, 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, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another.”

That’s what it will look like when God becomes shepherd. Not only will the sheep be settled back in their own land, but everyone will have enough. No longer will the wealthy sheep hogget. (You thought I was done with the lamb puns, right?) There will be a new covenant:

Ezekiel 34:25-31 “I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. 26 I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. 27 The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. 28 They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. 29 I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. 30 Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. 31 You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

That’s what God’s shepherding will bring: justice and safety. The very things the bad shepherds were unwilling to do.

The just reign of God

So how will that come about? We’ll do this bit more quickly, as I’m guessing you’ve worked out the pattern by now, right? Verse 23 tells us:

Ezekiel 34:23-24 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.

Now King David had been and gone by this point. What God’s talking about here is a king descended from David. Jesus, the “Son of David.” The one who turned up saying:

Luke 6:20-21 “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.”

And who warned the wealthy about:

Luke 12:21 “…how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

And the one who exclaimed:

Luke 18:24 “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

By contrast, Jesus went around welcoming the poor and the outcast into the kingdom—by word and deed. He fed his sheep when they were hungry, like we saw earlier. And he talked about gathering his scattered sheep together, so that

John 10:16 “there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

Ezekiel 34:23 “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.”

You get the picture, right? Jesus is the one who brought in what Ezekiel might have called the Era of Good Shepherding—something we’re more used to describing as the kingdom of God. Something that you and I now experience as part of God’s new people. Our new leader; the Son of David who rules with justice, making sure everyone has enough.

To think about

So what does God’s just rule look like? Spend some time thinking about that, as we’ll address it tomorrow.

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