September 10, 2007
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- And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
- Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
- Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.
- 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 again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.
- And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.
- My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.
- Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
- As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;
- Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
- Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.
- For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
- As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
- And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.
- I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.
- I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD.
- I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.
- And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats.
- Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet?
- And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.
- Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.
- Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed 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 cattle and cattle.
- 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 the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.
- And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely 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 his season; there shall be showers of blessing.
- And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them.
- And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid.
- And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more.
- Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord GOD.
- And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.
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- Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
- Son of man, set thy face against mount Seir, and prophesy against it,
- And say unto it, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O mount Seir, I am against thee, and I will stretch out mine hand against thee, and I will make thee most desolate.
- I will lay thy cities waste, and thou shalt be desolate, and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.
- Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity had an end:
- Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee: sith thou hast not hated blood, even blood shall pursue thee.
- Thus will I make mount Seir most desolate, and cut off from it him that passeth out and him that returneth.
- And I will fill his mountains with his slain men: in thy hills, and in thy valleys, and in all thy rivers, shall they fall that are slain with the sword.
- I will make thee perpetual desolations, and thy cities shall not return: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
- Because thou hast said, These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it; whereas the LORD was there:
- Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will even do according to thine anger, and according to thine envy which thou hast used out of thy hatred against them; and I will make myself known among them, when I have judged thee.
- And thou shalt know that I am the LORD, and that I have heard all thy blasphemies which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying, They are laid desolate, they are given us to consume.
- Thus with your mouth ye have boasted against me, and have multiplied your words against me: I have heard them.
- Thus saith the Lord GOD; When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate.
- As thou didst rejoice at the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee: thou shalt be desolate, O mount Seir, and all Idumea, even all of it: and they shall know that I am the LORD.
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- Also, thou son of man, prophesy unto the mountains of Israel, and say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD:
- Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the enemy hath said against you, Aha, even the ancient high places are ours in possession:
- Therefore prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the heathen, and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people:
- Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about;
- Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.
- Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because ye have borne the shame of the heathen:
- Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I have lifted up mine hand, Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame.
- But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come.
- For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown:
- And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded:
- And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
- Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men.
- Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because they say unto you, Thou land devourest up men, and hast bereaved thy nations;
- Therefore thou shalt devour men no more, neither bereave thy nations any more, saith the Lord GOD.
- Neither will I cause men to hear in thee the shame of the heathen any more, neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the people any more, neither shalt thou cause thy nations to fall any more, saith the Lord GOD.
- Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
- Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman.
- Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it:
- And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them.
- And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land.
- But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went.
- Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.
- And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.
- For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
- Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
- A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
- And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
- And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
- I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.
- And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen.
- Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.
- Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.
- Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded.
- And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.
- And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
- Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it.
- Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock.
- As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD.
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Thought for the day:
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Ezekiel 34 opens with a comparison between the human shepherds who led the people of Israel and the Good Shepherd who cares for His own children. The human leaders of that day were failing the people miserably, and the Lord uses the illustration of a shepherd to prove His point. Verse 2 starts by saying that the shepherds were feeding themselves rather than feeding the sheep that they had been given responsibility for. They used the sheep for their own selfish purposes. They ate them and sheared them, and killed some that they fattened up for themselves, but they ignored the rest (3). Those that were diseased were allowed to linger in that condition (4). Those that were lost were not sought for, and many were purposefully driven away by the great cruelty of the shepherds. Those who left the fold became easy victims for carnivorous beasts, but no one cared.
This is a serious indictment of the spiritual leadership of Ezekiel's day. Unfortunately, I believe the same symptoms can probably be seen in many of our own churches today. I fear that there are currently men in the ministry who are there for selfish motivations. While church work is still not normally considered a high-paying career, it is certainly better than it used to be, and some men in moderately-sized churches can make a decent income. This can result in a pastor attempting to build his church not for the sake of the souls of men, but for the improvement of his church's, and his own, financial position. Some men spend very little time feeding their flocks. They expend minimal effort in preparation to deliver their messages, and the messages that they do preach are taken out of context. These sermons may be delivered in such a manner that the congregation realizes that they don't mean much to the pastor and thus shouldn't mean much to them. The members of the congregation rarely see the pastor visit them in their homes, even when they are struggling with issues. When they are having physical problems, he isn't there. When they are having spiritual problems, he allows them to be spiritually sick, and may in fact allow them to depart completely because he is more interested in himself than in them. Once they leave, he makes no attempt to get them back. Those who the pastor sees as having a special benefit to him, perhaps because of their wealth or talent, may receive special attention, but the average church member is left to wonder if the pastor cares about him as a person at all. Some are even driven from the church, not because of Biblical church discipline, but because of the pastor's authoritarian, self-centered dictatorship. Once they are gone, whether by being ignored or by being driven away, they become easy fodder for the cults and other false teachers, and they disappear, unlamented, from the spiritual radar.
This is not how the Lord intended for His flocks to be treated. He is against those who abuse their leadership positions in this fashion (10). He, as the Good Shepherd, shows how it is supposed to be done. He takes the time to go and find His sheep, regardless of where they may be and how much effort must be expended (12). He understands that it is dark and dangerous outside the fold (12), and it is important to Him that all the sheep be safely inside. He brings them to a place where they can be fed, and he gives them good things to eat (13-14). He provides for them a place of spiritual comfort and security where they need not fear what those on the outside will do to them (14). He gives them rest so that they do not desire to flee (15). He does whatever is necessary to help those who are hurting and running away from God (16). In so doing, He will take those who have been selfishly motivated, and those who have prospered from this selfish motivation, and destroy them (16).
The Chief Shepherd sets the example for the under-shepherds. As a pastor and a leader, I am responsible to see to it that I lead as the Lord leads. Perhaps you are not a pastor, but God has given you spiritual authority over others. Are you exercising that leadership as Jesus would, or are you motivated by selfish concerns? Christ is motivated by love for others, and we must be as well.
Pastor Mark J Montgomery