My wife and I were reading in Ezekiel 34 a few nights ago.
During the reading, it occurred to me that this passage is very New Testamental.
By that I mean, many phrases within this passage are directly addressed in the New Testament.
You know, I would consider this passage to be very modern, dare I say it – even applicable to us today.
Lets read the first three verses to get a gist of the passage, and then let me know what you think!
1 The word of the LORD came to me:
2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?
3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.
It seems the Lord is using the picture of the shepherd/sheep to describe the spiritual relationships between the leaders of Israel (both political and religious) and the “rank and file” of Israel – what we might call “the laity” in today’s Christian environment.
The principle complaint against the shepherds was that they fed themselves, to the exclusion of feeding the flock. Of course the leaders fed some of the flock, but as we will see, it wasn’t an enviable condition to be in if you were a sheep!
The shepherds of Israel ate the fat.
It seems that the word fat in the first phrase of the charge may be translated as milk (some translations use “curds”). This would show a progression of abuse on the part of the shepherds as to what they demand from the sheep. Since the milk of the sheep was not restricted from the shepherds, the Lords complaint must be regarding the abuse of this privilege.
Excessive taxation and the demand of religious obligations was “milking the flock”, in a very real manner. Today when we talk of “milking it”, I think we are using the term in a similar manner.
The shepherds of Israel clothed themselves with wool.
Sheep are to supply wool. It is one of their principal functions. So again, the issue must be the abuse of the privilege. In the same way that the milk supplied a temporary need, the wool supplied a more permanent benefit to the shearers. But the next phrase seems to indicate that those that were giving the benefits of milk and wool were not being fed, which reinforces the original charge against the shepherds. They (the spiritual leaders of Israel) were taking from the flock, but not feeding them!
The shepherds of Israel slaughter the fat ones.
The final function of a sheep is to supply food to the owner. It seems the shepherds fed these particular sheep. Please understand this is not an enviable position to be in.
If you were starving, at least the shepherds of Israel were just using you (taking milk and wool), instead of intending to kill you.
I suppose a number of questions rise in my mind. Fellow blogger Gerry Palermo suggested I build a survey of the questions. Check out Ezekiel 34 – Introduction -1 – Survey for a chance to respond to the following questions.
- How do you see the Good Shepherd?
- Does the Good Shepherd require milk, wool and meat from His flock? Selah.
- Is He demanding more than you can supply?
- Do you feel that you are not able to satisfy the demands of the Master?
- Do you worry about His intentions?
- When things are going well, do you worry that you are being set up?
By asking these questions to the sheperds of Isreal, Ezekiel is condemning these actions. The character of God in not such, that His intent is to simply take take take.
He does expect fruit from His followers, which is simply the natural outgrowth of abiding in Him. He feeds us, clothes us and provides life, that we might produce fruit for His glory.
Consider the difference. The true Shepherd is fundamentally different than the shepherds Ezekiel is preaching about in this passage. In the following posts, I hope we will find the contrast to be obvious!
Let us give thanks for our Good Shepherd!
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