Ezekiel 34:1-24 | "1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; 6 they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. 7 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. 11 For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 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 on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. 17 As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? 20 Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken."
DREW: Well, let’s go onto the second point and that is Jesus seeks and saves or finds the lost sheep. Now, we’re going to look in detail about the ministry of David in this passage and how Jesus fulfills it. Verses 11 through 13, I’m going to read this again so it becomes even clearer, “For thus says the Lord God, behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep. And I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and I will bring them into their own land.”
Now, what I want to do is go to the New Testament. Now that I think we’ve established from this passage that it’s talking about the Lord Jesus Christ and His shepherding. We’re going to see how He seeks and saves and finds the lost sheep. Look at Luke chapter 15. Jesus is telling a parable to the pharisees and the scribes who were grumbling about lost sheep and here’s what he says, Luke 15:3-7, “So Jesus told them this parable: “What man of you having a hundred sheep if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing. And when he comes home he calls together his friends and his neighbors saying to them, “Rejoice with me for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so I tell you there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” What I want you to see here is Jesus is really ultimately referring to himself and to His ministry. The sheep is lost and what the Good Shepherd, Jesus, does, is to go after the sheep. He does this through us, His body. It’s really Jesus’s continued ministry through His body in the world today by the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus is seeking this one sheep who is lost, he’s wandered off or she’s wandered off. He finds it and what does he do, he places it -- the shepherd would place the sheep on his shoulder and that’s where it’s going to look like a crucifix. In order to bring that sheep home, he’s like this -- it looks like a crucifix, because to bring the lost sheep back to where they belong back home is going to take the sacrifice of the Good Shepherd who gladly and willingly lays down His life for the sheep. That’s the only way to bring lost sheep home as we will see. And then he rejoices because he’s home. So you have the cross, which even while we were enemies Christ died for us -- Romans 5 -- and that is the means by which lost sheep are found. Once we are found, as somebody proclaimed the word to us and by grace we believe, then we go out and we communicate to others. If they believe, the lost sheep are now found and now they come home. They come home to the Lord and to His family and sit at His table.
Now, Ezekiel 34, again, says this -- verse 12 -- “I will rescue them, my sheep, from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” Day of clouds and thick darkness. In Luke -- you don’t have to turn there -- 23, verse 44 to 45 says this, as Jesus died on the cross -- this is a quote -- “It was now about the sixth hour and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour while the sun’s light failed.” When Jesus was crucified all the sudden it became dark. The sun no longer gave it’s light. It did, but it was covered. Darkness over the land, the sun’s light failed. In Ezekiel 34:12, “I will rescue my sheep from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” The means by which the sheep of God are going to be found was the crucifixion. That’s the means. Now, that word has to go forth, but it’s already been set in motion in the crucifixion. “A day of clouds and thick darkness,” which would have been a day of judgement. Now, of course, what happens when we share the good news and somebody believes, that judgement is now being taken from being on that person if they believe and it’s placed on Jesus, but it could only have happened if the crucifixion happened first. But we shouldn’t dismiss the “on the day of clouds and thick darkness” and that at the crucifixion and “there was darkness over the land while the sun’s light failed.” That’s the means by which everybody is saved as the word goes out. So Jesus rescues the lost sheep by His death, which occurred on a day of thick darkness while the sun’s light failed.
I want to draw your attention to one more passage then we’ll open it up for a discussion. Jesus and Zacchaeus, just at the end when Zacchaeus was changed, he had his heart changed in Luke 19, and he really repented by giving back far more financially than was required of him according to the Levitical law. In verse 9 of Luke 19, “Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house since he is also the son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
When you think about the shepherding ministry of Jesus in seeking and saving people, what do you think about?
NANCY: It’s something that almost can’t be fathomed by human understanding. It kind of reminds me of Psalm 139. It’s too wonderful for me, the words from that Psalm. The fact that we would have someone who cares about us so much that He would go through what He went through in order to save me, a sinner, in order to save the world. By human understanding it’s very difficult and it’s only by faith that it makes sense to us.
DREW: Good. How does Jesus seek and save people today?
JOHN: By His word, and by his way of life. It’s not a religion; it’s a way of life. You know, there’s no violence in there, it’s all love, no hate. I think it’s great. If you follow His teachings and what’s written, I think that everything would work out and if you don’t, you know the rest of the story. You’re off the beaten path and you’re a lost sheep.
DREW: How does God -- if you have a friend who is an unbeliever, friend or family member, how does the Lord seek that person today? It’s through you. Think of it this way. I remember one time hearing that somebody said the acts of the apostles -- that’s a misnomer -- it should be the acts of the Holy Spirit. It’s the acts of Jesus by the presence and power of His Holy Spirit through the apostles and through the early church. Jesus is continuing his work today through us. We are His body. He is still seeking and saving people today. Locally, He’s present in heaven. Spiritually He’s present in His people. He’s still seeking and saving people, He’s just doing it through you. We have to grasp this.
PENNY: That’s like what I said in my tweet this week sometime. It was about how the same Holy Spirit who lives in Peter and John and all the apostles is the same Holy Spirit that lives in us today and it’s the same way He draws others to himself. It’s through us and relationships and through us proclaiming His word. Just like what John was saying and living by it. That’s the power.
MARY: The other thing, too, is it’s not just us speaking to those around us. It’s by our actions and how we behave and do we go out and get drunk on Friday nights or do we -- you know, how do we show Christ in us? And that is still teaching through the Holy Spirit when we just let Him flow through us.. You know, when you have children or friends that don’t believe and they have made that abundantly clear, I think it’s a heavier responsibility to stand there and make sure you stay in the faith and just continue to show the faith.
DREW: One more question on this point and then we’ll go to the third point. What are some ways in which we can prepare ourselves or continue to prepare ourselves to be more effective instruments of God seeking and saving people?
JOHN: Just the way we run our lives. The way we act in public.
JOHN: Yeah, it’s a lifestyle. Yeah, and it is nice. I mean, you don’t want to be around somebody that’s always ready to do battle with X, Y, and Z or, you know, it just -- and I think you pick your friends and your associates by the way they run their lives, you know. Instead of being around somebody that always wants to go out and raise hell.
DON: Well, I think the preparation has got to come through studying the scriptures, and like we’re doing here today and trying to get a more in depth understanding of what transpired way back when and then through Christ’s coming and His salvation for us, but we have the power of the Holy Spirit available to us and we learn more and more about that as we read His word.
NANCY: I would agree with that. I think it is by studying His word and continuing to read on a daily basis. You know, there have been times when I’ve been faced with that kind of situation where I’m talking to somebody and I can tell that I should be speaking to them to try to help them encounter Jesus and certain scripture verses will come to mind. Sometimes it’s only part of the verse and you want the whole thing and the only way you get the whole thing is if you are continually studying, because otherwise it’s like partially there, but it’s not as strong as if you had the entire verse.
DON: Well, that’s why you always throw in this is paraphrase.
DREW: Or I’ll get back with you with the rest of it.
PENNY: And I think what Nancy is alluding to is just what we did with the whole ministry we’re doing is God breaking in. It’s God moments. That’s what we’re talking about. When God shows up in our lives, He breaks in and gives us these spiritual eyes to see, how to love this person because of our training in the word and because we spend time with Him, getting to know Him, and if God is love, I mean, that love is going to break forth. It’s not going to be contained and that’s exactly what you see in the book of Acts. You see them just loving, loving, loving and they’re sharing exactly what Jesus did for them, which was the greatest gift of all in His love for us on the cross.