Ezekiel — Lesson 19
Ezekiel 34 & 35
1. Condemnation and Fate of Corrupt and Delinquent Shepherds. 34:1-10.
1. Any examination of the history of the Northern Kingdom begins with Jereboam. 1 Kings 12:25-33.
1. His leadership and apostasy proved to be Israel's ruin.
2. He immediately introduced idolatry by erecting two golden calves at Dan and Bethel.
3. From this beginning Israel sank lower and lower in idolatry and immorality until it was destroyed in 722 B.C. 2 Kings 17:5-7.
2. Ezekiel has already announced that Judah failed to learn from her older harlotrous sister (23:1-49).
1. After Josiah, all the kings of Judah were corrupt.
2. They led the nation in spiritual and political ruin.
3. A prophetic preview of the monarchy's effects on the life of the nation found in 1 Samuel 8:11-18 is a sobering prediction of these events.
4. The indictment against Judah's leaders is three-fold:
1. They did not seek to meet the needs of the people but only used the people for their own selfish ends (vv. 2-3).
2. They did not take special care of those in need, the helpless members of society; rather, they met weakness and injury with callous cruelty (v. 4).
3. For lack of positive moral or spiritual leadership the people wandered from the Lord and became a prey to idolatry and immorality (vv. 5-6).
5. For their irresponsible and selfish lack of leadership the Lord counted them guilty of violating his trust and announced their removal; the Lord himself would come to the aid of his flock and rescue them out of the mouths of their corrupt leaders (cf. Matt. 20:25-28). 34:7-10.
1. The condemnation of the shepherds for failure in their duty is comprehensive and devastating in its scope.
1. They fed themselves well, but not their sheep.
2. Indeed, though they did not lift a finger in fulfilling their pastoral duties, they knew how to profit from their position, dining on roast lamb and dressed in sheepskin jackets.
3. As they relaxed in their privileged position, the state of their flocks steadily declined.
4. The sick and crippled sheep were not attended to, strays were left to wander, vulnerable to every beast of prey that sought a meal.
2. This denunciation of the shepherds is sobering in that it evokes from all who have such responsibilities an act of self-examination.
1. To be a pastor is to have responsibilities for other people; the responsibilities bring both certain rights and privileges.
2. The pastoral role involves caring for others, not striving for oneself.
3. The prophetic denunciation reveals the capacity within each of us to fail as a pastor.
4. It is a failure when one accepts the rights and privileges, but ignores the responsibilities.
5. It is a failure when one cares for one's self, but ignores the welfare of those entrusted to his care.
6. As was true with the watchman (ch. 33), failure as a shepherd leads not only to personal disaster, but results in terrible grief among the members of the clock.
3. Worst of all is the divine declaration addressed to the delinquent pastors, "I am against the shepherds" (v. 10).
2. The Action of a New Shepherd. 34:11-16.
1. Ezekiel contrasted the exploitation of the corrupt shepherds with the diligent care God would exercise on behalf of his flock.
1. The role of Jehovah as a shepherd was a familiar one in the O.T.
1. The title "shepherd" was one of the oldest designations used for God and appeared in Gen. 49:24.
2. The best known example of God's shepherd image is that of David in Psalm 23.
2. But Ezekiel is saying something new despite the familiarity of the O.T. with the concept of God as a shepherd.
1. Throughout Israel's history God had delegated the role of shepherd to prophets, judges, and kings.
2. They had been privileged to serve as under shepherds (cf. 1 Pet. 5:4 describing Christ as "chief shepherd."), responsible to the Good Shepherd.
3. In the failure of the under-shepherds, Ezekiel declares that God would act once again directly as Israel's shepherd.
3. Ezekiel 34:11-16 abounds in first person promises.
1. God repeatedly promised "I will."
2. While there is some overlap and repetition, there are twenty-five such promises in this and the following paragraphs of the chapter.
3. These promises include elements of judgment as well as deliverance.
1. Jehovah promised to hold the shepherds accountable for the sheep, remove them from tending the flock, rescue his flock from their mouths, search for and look after his sheep, look after and gather them, rescue them from clouds and darkness, and gather them from among the nations.
2. He would bring them to their own land, place them on the mountains of Israel, tend the flock in good pasture so that they could lie down in safety, search out the lost and the strayed of the flock, bind up the injured, and destroy the strong who oppose the flock.
3. He would shepherd the flock with justice, judge between one sheep and another, judge between the fat and the lean sheep, save the flock, place over them one shepherd, be their God, make a covenant of peace with them, bless them, shed showers in season, and provide for them (vv. 10-29).
4. The verses describing the Good Shepherd also contain the promise of a new future for the sheep.
1. They had been exploited, deserted, and exposed to terrible dangers under their former shepherds.
2. In the new situation there would be a total change of circumstances: "I will feed them in justice," God declares (v. 16).
3. Indeed, when all is said and done, it is the sheep that matter more than the shepherds.
1. If there were no sheep, there would be no shepherds; if there were no people, there could be no rulers.
2. God's most fundamental concern, as expressed by the prophet, was for the people themselves.
3. The words contain the terrors of judgment (v. 10), but the judgment of the shepherds is rooted in profound pastoral concern for the sheep.
4. Thus, the prophet's anticipation of a better future for his people is not simply a conviction that eventually justice would be done; it was also an insight into the love of God.
5. The entire pastoral metaphor presupposed God's care and love.
6. No shepherd can function without participating in that love; no sheep can live without experiencing that love.
7. The positive elements in Ezekiel's teaching are beginning to predominate.
3. The Flock and Its Future. 34:17-31.
1. The Judgment of the Sheep. 34:17-22.
1. Although chapter 34 is dominated by the pastoral metaphor of the shepherd, Ezekiel's focus swings back and forth like a pendulum between the immediate crisis through which he lived, and the more distant future for which he hoped.
1. Ezekiel began with a declaration of judgment against the shepherds, or rulers (vv. 1-10), but then turned to a time when God would act as the Good Shepherd directly (vv. 11-16).
2. Now he turns back to the present, and describes the judgment of the sheep (vv. 17-22), but then in turn moves his attention forward to the future and the full restoration of God's people (vv. 23-31).
2. Here the Lord ceased addressing the corrupt shepherds and began speaking to his flock.
3. Not only would he rescue and tend, but the coming divine Shepherd also would be a righteous judge.
1. Former "shepherds" allowed and even participated in the oppression of the weak of the flock. 34:17-19.
1. The strong animals not only pushed forward to graze on the best grass but, when they had eather their fill, they trampled on the rest to render it inedible for the weaker sheep.
2. They pushed forward to drink the fresh water, but then stirred up the mud to make it undrinkable for their companions.
2. The Lord would oppose those who were "greedy for unjust gain" (33:31) and who took advantage of the weak.
3. Like a shepherd who must judge between sheep to be bred or sold or butchered, the Lord will judge between people who need his care and those who deserve his judgment.
4. Jehovah has promised to be a righteous judge who would save his flock and distinguish between those who were truly his and those who were not (v. 22; cf. Rom 2:28-29; 9:6-8).
4. Ezekiel brings out starkly the latent perversity of human nature.
1. First, there is greed -- we push and shove, using all our strength to thrust aside our fellow human beings in order to achieve our goal.
2. Having achieved our first goal, the discovery of power leads to a peculiar twist.
1. We got what we wanted because we were strong, but the same strength could stop the weak from getting what they want.
2. So having partaken to the full, we destroy what remains to deny it to others.
3. However, well cloaked, our greed and perversity cannot remain hidden forever: "I myself will judge," God says (v. 20).
2. The Future and Full Restoration of God's People. 34:23-31.
1. Vv. 23-24 are transitional to the final section on the covenant of peace (vv. 25-31).
1. They are clearly unified by the repetition of "my servant David" in both verses and by the parallelism between the last clause of v. 23 and the first clause of v. 24 (literally): "And he will be to them for a shepherd and I Yahweh will be to them for a God."
2. Nevertheless, v. 23 continues the figure of shepherd/flock, whereas v. 24 abandons it for the literal "prince/people" in anticipation of the literal message in vv. 25-31 (which reverts to the figure in v. 31).
2. The coming shepherd will be known as "my servant David" (v. 23; see 37:22-26 for a parallel passage).
1. He was one from the line of David who was a fulfillment of the promise made in the Davidic covenant in 2 Sam. 7:16.
2. He will establish an everlasting throne of David.
3. Unlike the corrupt former Davidic rulers who only served themselves, this new king will be a servant of the Lord (cf. Matt. 4:10; 6:24; 12:18; 20:28; Luke 1:69; Acts 3:13, 26; 4:25-30).
4. He will also be God's personal representative, who will reconfirm the Davidic covenant of 2 Sam. 7:12-16.
5. He will tend the Lord's flock, be Jehovah's shepherd (Ezek. 34:23), and a prince among them (34:24).
3. The promise of a covenant of peace. 34:25-31.
1. Ezekiel concluded this series of messages with the Lord's promise of a "covenant of peace" with his people (v. 25), referring to what Jeremiah called a "new covenant" (Jer. 31:31).
1. The designation here indicates that this new covenant relationship will provide his people with peace (cf. Num. 25:12; Josh. 9:15; 10:1; Psa. 29:11; 85:8; Isa. 54:10).
2. It was peace and rest which humanity lost through sin (Gen. 3:15; 4:8), and which the Mosaic covenant promised as a result of obedience (Lev. 26:6).
3. But in spite of Israel's disobedience, the prophets envisioned a coming restoration of peace and all the other characteristics of life before the fall (Isa. 9:6-7; 52:7; 53:5; 66:12; Jer. 30:10; 33:6, 9; Hag. 2:9).
4. This will come to pass in the Messianic Age with the restoration of the ideals of life as it was lived in Eden.
2. This covenant is the same one promised in Ezek. 16:60 which will establish an unbreakable bond between God and his people.
1. By it he will assure their well-being and personally act as covenant mediator (v. 25).
2. "I will bless them" (v. 26) begins a list of the benefits of the covenant of peace.
1. There will be showers at the right season (v. 27a) that produce bountiful crops.
2. The people will dwell in security and freedom (vv. 27b-28).
3. There will be no famine or threats from enemies (v. 29).
4. The people will know that God, their Shepherd, is with them and that Israel his flock is his people (v. 30).
4. The central figure of chapter 34 is God's ideal Shepherd-King who was the antithesis of the corrupt leadership that resulted in the exile; eight characteristics of this Shepherd-King may be gleaned from 34:11-31.
1. He has a special relationship with Jehovah.
1. In vv. 11-16 the shepherd is God (v. 16), but in vv. 23-24 he is "my servant David."
2. The use of the personal pronouns "I" more than 30 times and "my" more than 15 times suggests that this shepherd would be God in a personal form.
3. The same concept may be found in the good Shepherd passage in John 10:30 (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5) in which Jesus said that He and the Father were one.
2. He will feed his sheep (34:13, 26-27, 29).
1. Like the shepherd of Psa. 23, his sheep will not want.
2. Jesus is the Bread of life (John 6:31-35) and the Water of life (John 4), satisfying the needs of his sheep.
3. He will gather his sheep together (34:12-13).
1. No longer were they to be a scattered flock.
2. In the N.T. the church was unified through Christ (Matt. 12:30; Eph. 4:3-7).
3. Ezekiel envisioned the day when the Messiah would gather all his sheep in a wonderful union (see Matt. 13:30-31).
4. He will reestablish his people peacefully in their land (34:14-15).
1. This echoes Psa. 23, which tells of the shepherd's care for his flock.
2. Under his rule the flock has no want (23:1), no worry (23:2), no weakness (23:3), no wickedness (23:40, no death (23:4), no fear (23:4), no defeat (23:5), no deficit (23:5), no judgment (23:6), and no end (23:6), all qualities that promote peace and security (see John 1:1-42; 14:27).
5. He will rule with justice and compassion (34:16).
1. Jesus began his public ministry by claiming the role of the servant of the Lord.
2. (Isa. 61:1,2 -- The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2to proclaim the year of Jehovah’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; cp. Luke 4:16-21-- And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written, 18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, 19To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. 20And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21And he began to say unto them, To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears.).
6. He will personally judge his people (34:17, 20, 22).
1. Unlike the ruthless kings of Israel and Judah, he will judge with equity and righteousness.
2. Jesus was presented as a righteous judge of his people who rendered to each a just reward (Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10-11; 1 Cor. 3:11-15).
7. He will be the only true shepherd (34:23).
1. There will be no rivals to his ministry.
2. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 10:9, 11-12; 14:6; Acts 4:12).
8. He will mediate a covenant of peace (34:25).
1. When people enter a covenant of peace with the Shepherd, they also make peace with God (John 10:27-28).
2. This covenant of peace is an everlasting covenant (Ezek. 16:60; Isa 54:10; John 10:29).
5. Perhaps this passage is one of those where the prophets spoke more than they knew.
1. We can see more than Ezekiel saw.
2. He only saw the promises as a future hope of redemption to be realized.
3. On the other hand, we can see them both in their historical setting and in their fulfillment in Christ.
4. Ezekiel 34 is closely related to both Psa. 23 and the Good Shepherd passage of John 10:1-42
5. The hope of the Messiah soared with God's promise of one shepherd (v. 23) who would gather the people and reinstate the line of David to bring people to a knowledge of God.
4. The Desolation of Mount Seir. 35:1-15.
1. The judgment of Edom in 35:1-15 was the basis for the salvation of the "mountains" of Judah in 36:1-15.
1. These two passages have strong contrasts and comparisons between Edom and Israel, making the judgement of Edom a foil for Israel's salvation.
2. For the desolation Edom brought upon Israel, God would bring desolation upon Edom and fruitfulness to Israel.
2. The message begins with an instruction to Ezekiel to set his face against Mount Seir. 35:1-2.
3. Two factors suggest the appropriateness and validity of this message of judgment.
1. The malicious joy of the Edomites over the fall of Jerusalem marked them for a double portion of judgment; the message of judgment is given twice to suggest certainty.
2. Edom had taken territorial possession of portions of Judah, especially in the south; the promise or restoration would raise the question of the territory taken over by the Edomites.
4. The message against Edom has two parts.
1. The declaration of judgment against Edom. 35:1-4.
1. The Edomites were descendants of Esau (Gen. 25:25).
2. Genesis chs. 27 and 32 reveal the enmity that existed between Jacob and Esau.
3. That animosity was perpetuated among their progeny in spite of their personal reconciliation (Gen. 33:1-20).
4. The Edomites inhabited the region southeast of the Dead Sea and south of Moab around Mount Seir.
5. Esau's descendants were known as a cruel (Amos 1:11-12), vengeful (Ezek. 25:12-14), warring (Gen. 27:40), idolatrous (2 Chron. 25:14, 20), and proud people (Isa. 49:16-17).
6. God was against them because they consistently took sides with the enemies of his people and even helped them in attacks against Israel (2 Chron. 20:10).
7. Therefore God promised that Edom would one day be desolate (see Isa. 34:5-17; Jer. 49:7-22; Obadiah) because of their implacable thirst for revenge against the Hebrews.
2. The reasons for the judgment of Edom. 35:5-15.
1. Edom was to be judged for its "ancient" enmity against the Hebrews, still harbored after hundreds of years following the deception of Esau by Jacob. (v. 5).
2. The Edomites had encouraged Israel's enemies to execute the Jews by the sword; they missed no opportunities to endorse and even to participate in attacks against Israel (v. 5; Obadiah 10-14).
3. Their desire to possess the land of Israel was fueled by their feelings that the land still belonged to them because Jacob had obtained it by deception (v. 10; Gen. 27:1-40).
1. Because of these feelings, God said they would be victims of bloodshed since they perpetrated bloodshed and violence against Israel (v. 6).
2. So Edom was destroyed (v. 7), and the land, filled with the slain, would remain a perpetual desolation (v. 8).
3. The cities of Edom would vanish, never to return (v. 9).
4. The accuracy of this prophecy is confirmed by the absence of Edom from the family of nations and the desolation of the region they formerly inhabited.
4. The Edomites blasphemed the mountains of Israel by saying that they had been laid waste and given over to the Edomites to devour (v. 12); their words were blasphemous because they disregarded Jehovah's desire for the allotment of the land to Israel.
5. They had spoken against God without restraint (v. 13).
1. This spirit of defiance was the subject of Malachi's message and insight into the bitterness of the descendants of Esau (Mal. 1:1-5).
2. They exhibited an attitude of defiance that ignored God's will for themselves as well as for the Israelites.
3. God promised judgment for Edom and announced that since the Edomites rejoiced over Israel's calamity the whole world would rejoice over its destruction (v. 14).
4. Gloating over Israel and trying to confiscate their territory caused the the destruction, desolation, and loss of their land and national identity (v. 15).
5. As is so often the case in the O.T., the description of evil in the ancient world seems to mirror accurately the modern world.
1. Mount Seir was a land that had cultivated hatred from one generation to the next; no doubt it was in part justified, based on the memories of acts of injustice done against it in former centuries by its neighbor, Judah.
2. But whatever the reasons, a nation that stores hatred for another, cultivating it from one generation to another, is harboring a rot within its soul.
3. Edom has its modern counterparts; there are still nations whose history is one of hatred for a neighbor.
1. There are always justifications for the hatred, well-founded on injustices, imagined or real, done to it by its neighbor.
2. But a history of hatred, taught to children so that it might flourish in a coming generation, is ultimately a curse on any nation; like a cancer it spreads through the body of the nation as a whole, bringing closer the day of its demise.
3. Nations, no less than individuals, need to learn the art of forgiveness.
4. There can be no full human life when the forces of evil remain rampant.
1. At the heart of human living must be the recognition that we are loved by God and are required to love; we cannot love if hate abounds.
2. As we learn of the love of God, we discover above all that it is a self-giving love; love and greed cannot flourish together.
3. Hatred and love can only be destroyed if love abounds.
4. If they are not destroyed then, like Mount Seir, we shall hear the terrible divine words: "I am against you" (v. 3).
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)