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‘My flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd.’
I. I am a shepherd.—Whether I will or no, I am a shepherd; I cannot avoid the solemn responsibility; there are some who are following my leading and obeying my voice. It is a momentous thought.
For it is terribly easy to be a false shepherd. Through carelessness, through the neglect of my duty, through easy-going indifference, as well as by actually doing spiritual harm to others and deliberately leading them into sin, I may be marring and ruining a precious human life. It does not need me to be flagrantly wicked; it simply needs that I should be unthinking and selfish.
Perhaps my Lord has entrusted me to the care of some other souls—the souls of the children in the home or in the school. What a heavenly privilege it is, and what a stupendous responsibility!
II. Above all things I must dread lest I should be a hireling shepherd.—Am I sufficiently alive to the infinite hazards which beset the children, the daily risks they run, the enemies they are ever encountering? Am I impressed profoundly enough with the unmeasurable possibilities which lie latent and slumbering in those young hearts, and which it should be my care to educe and develop and guide in the right way? Am I filled as I should be with a wise, patient, overcoming, invincible love—a love which bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things? These are questions which pierce deep and demand much. Yet I ought to press them home, and to make sure that I can answer them in God’s way. I would not have Him say to me—‘I will require My sheep at your hand, and will cause you to cease from feeding the sheep.’ There is an intolerable loss, a penetrating anguish, in such a word as that.
‘The shepherds of this chapter are not the religious leaders of the people, but rulers, who sought in their government, not the good of the people, but their own selfish ends. But the statements made by the prophet may be rightly applied to rapacious priests, who care more for the fleece than for the flock. Pastors are required to feed the flock of God, not for fifthy lucre, but as ensamples for the sheep ( 1 Peter 5:2-Leviticus :). It is their duty also to strengthen the spiritually diseased, heal the sick, bind up the broken in heart, and seek the lost.’
THE STRAY SHEEP
‘And ye My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.’
I. I have little doubt that when you read in this book of the shepherds who feed themselves, most of you mentally apply the words to the neglectful clergy.—As a matter of fact Ezekiel, in this passage, is not speaking or thinking of the clergy at all, but of the laity. By ‘shepherds’ he means the rich and the ruling. True is the proverb, ‘Like people, like priest.’ A selfish, sensual, money-loving people will make a similar priesthood. If ever the prophets prophesy falsely it never is unless ‘My people love to have it so.’ If you are all ice, it is hardly likely that we shall be all flame. Let us take to heart the warning of the prophet, which he addresses to all, in whatever station, who, in selfish greed and immoral acquiescence, are like the shepherds who only feed themselves.
II. But if we all are thus members, one of another, if all are responsible for one another, and for the society and nation in the midst of which we are living, how awful are the duties which press upon us!—How small a portion of the flock in these great cities is safely gathered into the fold of God! It is enough to make the heart ache to think how vast a portion of God’s flock in His world are still wandering in the cloudy and dark day. There are the heathen; there are the increasing multitude of unbelievers; there are those who forsake the Guide of their youth, and forget the covenant of their God; there are those who call themselves Christians, who turn their very religion into lies and hatred; there are those whose God is their belly, who glory in their shame. There are the lapsed masses in our crowded centres. Do not say, ‘We can do but little.’ Well, do that little. The righteous thought in the soul of one ordinary gentleman, Thomas Clarkson, crushed the slave trade. If tempted to despair in this warfare, in which there is no discharge, we have God’s promise to help us: ‘I will deliver My sheep out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.’ Horrible, indeed, and heartrending is the condition of a large portion of the flock; but may not these promises be the comfort of all those who love God? ‘Ye, My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.’
THE FLOCK OF GOD’S PASTURE
The two points which stand out the most salient, and the most beautiful, in this verse are these. First, the wonder that God should make ‘His flock’ out of such materials as ‘men.’ And next, the comfort, that He should pledge Himself to that ‘flock’ that He would be theirs for ever, and to feed them.
‘Flock’ is always a word of endearment in the Bible.
I. But the marvel is that when God would choose and make ‘flock,’ He should compose it of ‘men.’—We never read of His making it of angels. So loving a word is never applied to angels. Neither does He make it of saints. But ‘men’ become saints when they are His ‘flock.’ But when they were chosen, when they were drawn, when they were folded, they were not saints, but ‘men,’ only men! And afterwards, admitted, loved, nurtured, yet what are they? ‘Men’; men, with all the weaknesses of manhood—fallen, helpless, wandering, sinful, defiled!
Remember what humanity is. In a state of rebellion against its Creator; in a condition of degradation: the very word ‘humanity’ means fallen.
Every one’s own breast could tell a tale which, for very shame, his cheek would burn if another read! And the history of one soul is one great humiliation.
And yet it is of such a thing as this that God says, ‘Ye, My flock, the flock of My pasture, are men.’
And how God has made His ‘flock,’ the process is more marvellous even than that.
There was a Man, a Man in all the integrity of manhood, a Man with all man’s infirmities, a sinless Man, and God made that Perfect Man a Representative Man; and that Representative Man died, a Substitue for men; and God called that Representative Man, in the gentleness of His being, and the completeness of His sacrifice, ‘the Lamb of God’: and, as ‘the Lamb of God,’ that Man entered the fold; entered into every right; and all who would follow Him enter too. He draws them; He opens the gate; He is the gate: He gives the title; He adds the fitness; and so, through a Man, the fold is filled; and because man is to be partaker of that Man’s nature, and that Man’s privilege, so the possession is through a Man to men. And thus God says, ‘Ye My flock, the flock of My pasture, are men; and I am your God, saith the Lord God.’
And, oh! the change, once inside that fold. God sees us in the Immaculate One; and, for His sake, we are elect; we are loved! we are saved. ‘In Christ,’ we are ‘His own,’ clothed in His beauty, sharers of His holiness, partakers of His joy.
II. And so we come to our second point, what God pledges Himself to be to His ‘flock.’—And it is that which includes everything else, ‘I am your God.’ Simple words! a child can handle them; a child can utter them; a child can understand them. But who can fathom them? What can exhaust them? What an eloquence; what a grandeur! what a safety! what dignity! what rest! what desire unsatisfied! what left beside to want for time and for eternity! ‘ I am your God.’
Only let your heart echo it, ‘O Lord, I am Thine!’ and thus inscribing itself, ‘ I am Thine!’ that man’s peace is sealed for ever, and his heaven sure!
Mark every word, ‘ I am your God.’ ‘ I.’ The Eternal, The Omnipotent, The Unchanging. ‘ I am’—all love. ‘ I am’—one constant presence, in cloud and sunshine, ‘yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ From earliest infancy to hoar hairs: in life, in death, ‘ I am.’ The only possession you ever can have, or need to have, inalienable, personal. ‘ Your.’ For all that meets your need. ‘ Your God.’ All good in one. Father, Saviour, Sanctifier. The author and the end of your being; your Friend, your rest, your joy, your shield, your exceeding great reward. ‘ I am your God.’
But who may hear it, and who may say it? ‘ Men.’ Poor, weak, impotent ‘men’; because they are ‘ men.’ Because Jesus was a Man; made in the likeness of our manhood. We rest our plea upon manhood. For He has said it, ‘And ye My flock, the flock of My pasture, are men; and I am your God, saith the Lord God.’
I go before God, and I say, ‘Lord, save me; for I am a man.’
One of the many undertakings which God makes for His ‘flock’ lies in those loving, shepherd-like words, ‘ The flock of My pasture.’ And if it be His pasture, that is enough.
And so God will lead you from place to place; from one providence to another providence; from ministry to ministry; that each may give to your soul something which the other could not give. But be it in our outer life, or the hand that ministers to you what it may, if you are one of God’s sheep, it is ‘God’s pasture,’ whereever you are, to your soul.
And do not doubt that God will feed that life which He has given you. The ‘flock’ is for the glory of the great Proprietor. Shall He not feed it as He will?
For ‘the Man,’ who was once athirst and suffering, but now glorified, ‘the Man,’ Who said, ‘I have meat to eat, that ye know not of,’ knows what a man like us wants!
Your life, your growth, your spiritual strength is secure, for He says it, ‘Ye My flock, the flock of My pasture, are men; and I am your God, saith the Lord God.’
But not only so. There is no religion in anything omitting the body. In Christ’s discourses there are as many promises about the body as about the soul; and His miracles were to the full as much for the body as for the soul.
He has worn this body! He wears it now! He has redeemed this body! It is in the likeness of His own Incarnation! And this body is for ever!
Never forget that you are ‘a man’; that a body is a needful part of ‘a man.’ ‘Ye, My flock, the flock of My pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.’
—Rev. Jas. Vaughan.
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Ezekiel 34". Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent