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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Ezekiel 34

 

 

Verses 1-31

Chapter Thirty-four

The True Shepherd Of Israel Contrasted With The False

The present chapter contains Jehovah’s invective against the unworthy and selfish shepherds of Israel, whose one great concern was to take advantage of every opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the flock. There is no date given for this particular prophecy; it may have followed immediately after those we have been considering. From early times kings and governors as well as ecclesiastical leaders, such as priests and prophets, were designated “shepherds.” Our word “pastor” is just the Latin for shepherd. In all ages it has pleased God to place upon certain men the responsibility of ministering to and caring for the temporal and spiritual needs of their fellows. Where this service is performed in the fear of God and out of love for the people of his flock, it brings rich reward, as we see in 1 Peter 5:1-4, where the faithful pastor is promised a crown of glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

Jehovah Himself is pictured as the Shepherd of His people in many places in the Old Testament. We need hardly remind our readers of the beauty of the twenty-third Psalm, with its opening verse, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Then again in Psalms 80:1, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock”; Isaiah uses the same figure in 40:11, “He shall feed His flock like a shep- herd”; and Jeremiah, in 31:10, tells how Jehovah will keep Israel “as a shepherd doth his flock.” It is prophesied of Messiah that He will be a faithful Shepherd who will be raised up in the land of Palestine (Zechariah 11:16). When our Lord actually appeared among men He announced Himself as the Good Shepherd that giveth His life for the sheep. All His hearers would understand that He meant thereby to declare Himself the promised Deliverer, the Messiah of Israel. Here Ezekiel is commissioned by God to give a solemn warning to the selfish shepherds.

“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, even to the shepherds, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Woe unto the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the sheep? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill the fatlings; but ye feed not the sheep. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought back that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with rigor have ye ruled over them. And they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food to all the beasts of the field, and were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, My sheep were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and there was none that did search or seek after them”-vers. 1-6.

The shepherds were the leaders of the people in things both civil and religious. Corruption was everywhere rife among them. They had no real concern for the sheep of the flock; they took advantage of every possible opportunity to enrich themselves, and cared nothing about those for whom they should have had deep concern: they did not minister to the diseased nor to those who were sick, neither did they care for any who were maimed or injured in other ways; nor did they seek after those who had gone astray, as the shepherd is pictured doing in the fifteenth of Luke. They ruled the people with force and rigor, and as a result when the enemy appeared the sheep were terrified and scattered abroad and soon became food to all the beasts of the field: that is, beast-like Gentile powers. How tender the expression used by the Lord in verse 6 where He bewails the sheep wandering through all the mountains and upon every high hill with none to seek after or care for them. Such has been the condition of Israel ever since the dispersion, and will be until in a coming day they return to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls.

“Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of Jehovah: As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely forasmuch as My sheep became a prey, and My sheep became food to all the beasts of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did My shepherds search for My sheep, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not My sheep; therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of Jehovah: Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require My sheep at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the sheep; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any wore; and I will deliver My sheep from their mouth, that they may not be food for them”-vers. 7-10.

Since these shepherds had been so faithless to their trust the Lord Himself would deal with them. He had taken note of all their evil ways; He saw how they fed themselves and left the people to starve: therefore, He declared He was against these evil shepherds, and would require His sheep at their hand. What a solemn accounting it would be when they would have to answer before His judgment-bar for failing to fulfil the responsibilities He had laid upon them. He would deliver His sheep out of their hand, and deal with them for their perfidy. Surely such words as these may be well taken to heart by any who today are in the position of leaders among God’s people and yet fail to feed the flock committed to them, or to seek after those who have gone astray. Nor need we think only of ecclesiastical leaders, for it is God who has given authority to magistrates, and He holds them responsible to consider themselves as having been entrusted with authority in order that they may exercise it for the good of the nation as a whole. Where it is otherwise His judgment is certain to fall.

But if these shepherds are faithless the Lord Himself abideth true, as we see in verses 11 to 16.

“For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I Myself, even L will search for My sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered abroad, so will I seek out My sheep; and I will deliver them out of all places whither they have been scattered la the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them upon the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture; and upon the mountains of the height of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie down in a good fold; and on fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I Myself will be the Shepherd of My sheep, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord Jehovah. I will seek that which was lost, and will bring back that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but the fat and the strong I will destroy; I will feed them in justice”-vers. 11-16.

Jehovah Himself will search for His sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd endeavoring to gather together his dispersed flock, He will seek for them individually and deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the dark and cloudy day. Then together He will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the various countries in which they have been oppressed, and will bring them as a renewed nation into their own land: that is, the land of Palestine, where He will shepherd them upon the mountains of Israel, and cause that land once more to bring forth abundantly for their blessing.

It is the height of folly to attempt to spiritualize such a passage as this and make it apply only to God’s gracious dealings with His people today. It is clear that the same nation that has been scattered is the nation that will be gathered again when God’s due time comes. Then, indeed, He will feed them with good pasture, and on the heights of Israel they will find their fold and rejoice in the goodness of the Lord.

Note the definiteness of His language, “I Myself will be the Shepherd of My sheep, and I will cause them to lie down.” Charles H. Spurgeon has well said, “One would think even a poor silly sheep would have sense enough to lie down when weary, but alas, with the sheep of Christ’s flock it is often otherwise.” David declared, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures”; and here Jehovah says, “I will cause them to lie down.” He will seek after those that are lost, and will bring back those that have been driven away; He will bind up those that have been maimed, and will strengthen those that were sick; but the self-sufficient and the strong will be disappointed in that day when He shepherds His sheep in righteousness.

“And as for you, O My flock, thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, the rams and the he-goats. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have fed upon the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture? and to have drunk of the clear waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? And as for My sheep, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet, and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet”-vers. 17-19.

Not all who profess to be the Lord’s sheep are actually numbered among His own; so He distinguishes between those who truly trust Him and those who do not. He will judge those who, instead of enjoying the still waters and the green pastures, tread down the latter and defile the former, thus making them unfit for the true people of Jehovah to eat and drink.

May we not see in the behavior of those who spurn the truth of God and ridicule the testimony of Holy Scripture, a sample of this very thing today: they befoul that which means so much to the hungry and thirsty people of Christ’s flock. Because of such behavior judgment is sure to fall.

“Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah unto them: Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because ye thrust with side and with shoulder, and push all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad; therefore will I save My flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even My servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I, Jehovah, will be their God, and My servant David prince among them; I, Jehovah, have spoken it”-vers. 20-24.

In the day when everyone’s work shall be made manifest, the Lord will judge between those who are genuine and those who are unreal; He will hold responsible those who have had anything to do with turning His own away from Himself, and will save the flock that they shall no more be a prey to their enemies. This refers undoubtedly to the time when the remnant of Israel will be gathered back to the land of Palestine, when they shall look on Him whom they have pierced and shall mourn for Him “as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10). Then the Lord shall set up one shepherd over them- His servant David: that is, great David’s greater Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the one true Shepherd of Israel. Then indeed they will know in reality that Jehovah is their God, and the Prince of David’s house will be recognized as the promised Messiah.

“And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause evil beasts to cease out of the land; and they shall dwell securely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in its season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield its fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land; and they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have broken the bars of their yoke, and have delivered them out of the hand of those that made bondmen of them. And they shall no more be a prey to the nations, neither shall the beasts of the earth devour them; but they shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will raise up unto them a plantation for renown, and they shall be no more consumed with famine in the land, neither bear the shame of the nations any more. And they shall know that I, Jehovah their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are My people, saith the Lord Jehovah. And ye My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord Jehovah”-vers. 25-31.

In the day of Israel’s restoration to God and to the land, the Lord will recognize them as His covenant people, He Himself becoming their Protector, so that no harm will touch them in the future; evil beasts will cease out of the land, and they will dwell securely even in the wilderness or the forest; and He will order everything necessary for their welfare. No longer will the land suffer for lack of moisture: the former and the latter rains, as another prophet has told us, will be given in their season, and there shall be showers of blessing. These words have made an appeal to many hearts and spoken loudly of both spiritual and tem- poral mercies which God delights to send for the refreshment of His trusting people. We sing even today:

“There shall be showers of blessing:

This is the promise of love;

There shall be seasons refreshing,

Sent from the Saviour above.”

We are thinking particularly of spiritual blessings. In that coming day God will vouchsafe blessing to Israel, both material and spiritual, which will give them to rejoice in His goodness and praise Him for His loving-kindness. All the blessings that were promised of old to those who kept His law will be given to them in that day because of the covenant of grace. The yoke of their enemies will be broken off their necks, and they will be delivered out of the hand of the Gentiles under whose bondage they have suffered for so long. No more will they be ruthlessly hunted down by haughty and contemptuous nations, but they shall dwell securely in their own land with none to make them afraid. The evils that they have had to meet throughout the centuries will trouble them no more, and Jehovah their God will be with them and will rejoice over them in that day of His power.

The last verse makes this perfectly clear, and explains fully the parable of the Shepherd and the sheep. Jehovah says, “Ye My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are men, and I am your God.”

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 34:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/ezekiel-34.html. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, September 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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