True Shepherds Retrieve the Flock
the strayed you have not brought back
Notice a difference between the next two phrases we find in our study. The reason the sheep are not with the flock is twofold and God addresses both reasons.
The first reason is that the sheep were driven away – the second is that the sheep wandered away or got lost.
God is addressing the bad shepherds and rebuking them for their lack of concern for His flock. I am assuming that both the lost and the strayed are those that are (or were) in covenant with God.
Let’s read the passage first..
Ezek 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.
For this post, let’s consider the shepherds relationship to those who strayed, and lets define the term first. The Hebrew term is nadach.
נָדַח nâdach, naw-dakh’;
to push off; used in a great variety of applications, literally and figuratively (to expel, mislead, strike, inflict, etc.):—banish, bring, cast down (out), chase, compel, draw away, drive (away, out, quite), fetch a stroke, force, go away, outcast, thrust away (out), withdraw.
Notice this term generally speaks of outside forces acting on the one straying. A few of the translated terms seem almost violent – thrust away, banish, force, drive out.
True Shepherds Pull the Flock Together
Consider the prophet Jeremiah’s burden in Jerusalem at approximately the same time Ezekiel is prophesying
Jeremiah 23:1-21 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD.2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD.
Also consider Zechariah’s complaint of the foolish shepherd.
Zechariah 11:15-1715 Then the LORD said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd.17 “Woe to my worthless shepherd,who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm
and his right eye!
Let his arm be wholly withered,
his right eye utterly blinded!”
Is Jeremiah repeating the same concerns of Ezekiel? Are the shepherds of Israel driving the flock away?
Old Testament / New Testament Shepherds
Let’s think about something for a minute.
Is it the ministry of the shepherd to visit the flock? Or should the flock “minister” to the minister, by attending to the shepherds availability, needs and vision for the flock?
Although I do not seek to draw an exact parallel between the OT shepherds of Israel and the NT equivalent elders, I can’t help but see some recurring similarities. I have been a part of the body of Christ for close to 40 yrs, and I cannot remember one time when an elder/pastor visited with me simply to visit with me. Of course when a death or marriage requires their service, it is appreciated. But something tells me that caring for the flock, simply for the flocks sake might make a tremendous impact.
When I lost my job a few years back, the ministerial staff decided to also ask us to leave the church. It was simply coincidental to an issue that we were discussing with leadership (see below), but in my mind, this emphasized a “business” aspect of the institutional church.
In the separate circumstance referred to above, they asked us to submit to three wishes of the church staff. Two out the three could be defended Biblically, and we would gladly submit, but the third was arbitrary, and in good conscience we decided against the request. Therefore the church staff “requested that we leave”. They actually said submit or step down from all teaching/leadership ministries.
It was a few weeks later that one of the deacons told us privately that we should just leave – we had stepped down from all teaching by this time. – no discussion or desire to converse about the situation – just do as we say! I don’t get it. It was obvious we would have to move out of the area to seek other work, but the staff had it in their mind to “let us leave”.
By the way, due to losing my job, my entire family was at risk of being deported from the United States. It was a good thing that no one on the church staff took the time to know our situation, or this may have been a burden that was too heavy for my brothers. (At least I hope no one on the church staff knew of the implications of me loosing my position!)
Does this make me think that I am one who is “driven away”? At one time I may have thought that, but I have to consider what I have been driven away from, that is an institution that found it to be advantageous to follow rules instead of seeking relationship.
You know, if they had some authority to defend their decision to “let us leave”, it would be a different story. I would gladly defer to Scripture. All through the years we had attended this congregation, I had constantly deferred to leadership decisions, asking the Senior Pastor for permission for each action I was taking.
When asked about the reason for this ultimatum, it was simply stated that they were the authority – of course not in so many words, but there was no Biblical considerations discussed.
So am I “driven away”?
I guess, but I am not convinced that Ezekiel would consider this particular instance to be of any concern.
You see, I think I have been “driven” into a better place, where the Spirit of the Lord is allowing more freedom to see His Church as compared to my previously myopic perspective.
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