Bible study on the lectionary readings for the week leading up to
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Matthew 25: 31-46
Knowing we are the Lord’s: Sheep of the Shepherd’s pasture, sons and daughters of the Most High, the body of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit and united in worship and mission.
Ezekiel 34:11–16, 20–24
I will gather and care for My sheep with justice
11 “ ‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for My sheep and look after them.
- The first ten verses are a judgment on the “shepherds of Israel… who only take care of yourselves”. Harsh ungodly leadership i.e. the kings and their officials but also the prophets and priests have caused harm to the flock and scattered it. Now the Lord says He will remove those who have only taken care of themselves and will rescue the flock and look after them Himself.
12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after My sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.
- “All the places” – not just Babylonia but also Egypt (Jer. 43:1–17)
13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.
- Promises of restoration which are an emphasis of Ezekiel 33 to 39.
14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.
- The “mountains of Israel” represent salvation and judgment past.
- In the passage where Jesus speaks of Himself as the gate for the sheep, He says they will come in and go out and “find pasture”, perhaps with this verse in mind John 10:9
15 I Myself will tend My sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.
Reflecting on 400 years of rule by kings who largely lost sight of the covenant and righteous ways, and as a consequence lost first the northern kingdom, then Judah and Jerusalem, the Lord says that he Himself will now tend the sheep.
16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
(Verses 17–19 omitted from Sunday reading) 17 “As for you, My flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.
- “Rams and goats” – the poorer Israelites were being oppressed by people of power and influence. A recurring theme of the prophets is social justice.
18–19 ‘Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must My flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?’
- This picture of the flock trying to feed on trampled pasture and drink muddied water is a dramatic depiction of how the selfish greed of the privileged few have affected the rest of the people.
20–21 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away…
- Graphic description of the kind of oppression and bullying that this chapter emphasises as a cause of the downfall of the nation.
“… I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another.
23 “I will place over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will tend them; He will tend them and be their shepherd.
- Ezekiel was one of the Jews deported to Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem in 597 BC. David ruled about 400 years earlier. So this points to a ruler of David’s line and (in the context of the passage) as David was a man after God’s heart, a good shepherd and ruler of justice. This is a less well known prophecy concerning the coming of Jesus the Messiah, the Good Shepherd John 10:11–18 who of course was of David’s line. See also Jeremiah 23:5–6.
24 “I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.”
- In contrast with Israel’s poor history, God would once more dwell among them.
As well as a new ruler, the passage continues with the promise of a new covenant.
Application: Leadership that models the principles of God is God’s intention in every area of life,: political, institutional and spiritual. There should be no separation between the three, something upheld by the Reformers of 700 years ago. This does not sit well with the contemporary desire to be politically correct.
Harsh and dishonest rule is condemned in the Lord’s words through His prophet. Perhaps history shows that where God’s values are overturned, the result is instability and insecurity.
Discussion starter: In our society where sports personalities and heads of large corporations are rewarded in £ millions while others rely on food banks and zero-hours contracts at minimum wage, how would God deploy His body on earth?