Ezekiel 34. Now the Good News—the Restoration of Israel.
of Shepherds and Sheep.
Key Notes: A bad job of shepherding. Sheep-butting. Segregation of shepherds and sheep.
Chapter 34 is about shepherds and sheep. The shepherds were primarily the kings, but probably other spiritual leaders (priests, pastors, prophets and elders) should be included now as well. He starts with a job-description in reverse—all the work not done, the care not given by the shepherds. The theme of the worthless shepherd is also in Zechariah 11.
34:1–10 "The weak you have not strengthened,
the sick you have not healed,
the crippled 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."
11–16 So the sheep were scattered all over the world. God rejects Israel's shepherds as leaders, and will gather them back to Israel where He will be their shepherd, seeking the lost, binding wounds and providing jusrice.
34:17–21He judges the sheep also, because the strong sheep were fouling the food and drink, and butting the weak ones away.
34:22–24 God will put David over them as shepherd and prince.
34:25–31 God will restore their land so that they can camp out without fear of wild animals . There will be prosperous plantaions. No more hunger and no more reproach from the nations.
There is a natural tendency for leaders to cultivate the strong who can extend their work. People who are not prominent and talented are easily neglected. The criticism of these shepherds is that they have not cared for the weak. I have heard a church usher complain:
What do we do with these people who come in here,
annoying, disruptive, and helpless?
I can’t seat them with the rest of the people.
How many welfare families can a church support?
The Church is also guilty of sheep-butting--keeping people of diverse ethnic backgrounds out of its fellowship.
•After WWII many black veterans decided to enter the pastorate. They were rejected by evangelical seminaries and ended up in liberal institutions. So a whole generation of black leaders and their congregations were misdirected in their spiritual lives. We evangelicals may be looked upon as fouling the food supply of the Afro-American community.
•Bill McCartney took up the theme of racial reconciliation as part of his “Promise-keepers” ministry and found that there was considerable resistance in the churches he visited. While this has always been true in the South, it was also a problem in the Northern states. He believes that the church is the most segregated group in America.
(Christianity Today, May‘,1998)
The Church Growth researchers have found that churches that are culturally homogeneous (Willow Creek, for example) grow faster than churches that are diverse. Although that may be a factor, it should not be used as an excuse for racial segregation.
I do not propose a solution to this puzzle. Happily, our church seems relatively free of racism. For years we have welcomed people from all ethnic groups into our fellowship--Indonesian, Chinese, Latino, African-American and Korean. May it always be so.
There is a final solution: The Good Shepherd. God said He would lead His people. (34:11). Then He said David would be their shepherd. (34:23). Jesus, who is both Son of God and Son of David, will be our Shepherd. (Jn.10:11). So David is a surrogate or proxie of Jesus: he gives us a picture of what Jesus is like. Other surrogates of Christ are Melchizedek (King of Righteousness.Heb.7) and Solomon. IK.10:23–25;Matt.12:42
Lord, help me to love the alien and the stranger, the crippled and the mentally ill.
Lead Your Church into ethnic, social and spiritual harmony.