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: Let’s move on to number three. Once Jesus finds His sheep, He feeds them. So now that He has sought them and He finds them, now He feeds them. Again, this is comparing and contrasting the failure of the ministry of the shepherd kings of Israel with the success of the ministry of David, the servant of the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. Ezekiel 34, the second part of 13 and verse 14, “And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel by the ravines and in all the inhabited places of the country. 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.” It’s a beautiful, not only feeding, but calming and it’s an abundant provision.
And what I want to look at is in the New Testament, the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6, and we will see how Jesus fulfills this and notice particularly the language. I’m going to read Mark 6, verses 34 to 44, “When Jesus went ashore, He saw a great crowd and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a desolate place and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But He answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy 200 denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five and two fish.” Then He commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And He divided the two fish among them all.
And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish and those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.”
Okay. What I want to do now is look at Ezekiel and then compare it with this part of Mark. Ezekiel 34:24, “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.” So in Ezekiel 34:24, God says this David who is to come, who is Jesus, is going to be their shepherd and he’s going to feed them. Mark 6:34, “And when Jesus went ashore, He saw a great crowd and He had compassion on them, because they were like a sheep without a shepherd, and He began to teach them many things.” Now, that’s part of feeding, isn’t it? It’s a big part. He also fed them here with the bread and the fish, but that’s the idea. They were like sheep without a shepherd. That should ring a bell, because going way back they were like sheep without a shepherd. Nobody was feeding them, nobody was caring for them. Jesus is doing both here. He’s going to be their shepherd.
Ezekiel 34:14, “They shall lie down” -- that is the sheep -- “in good grazing land and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.” Mark 6:39, “Then He, Jesus, commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.” Do you see that? That’s just not thrown in there. That’s to show He’s the shepherd. In Ezekiel 34 it said they’d “lie down in good grazing land, on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.” Remember Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.” The Lord is my shepherd. He’s the shepherd of Psalm 23. He’s the shepherd who is David in Ezekiel 34. When they lie down, they’re -- when they sit down in groups, they’re like the sheep now and He’s going to feed them on the green grass, but He’s not going to feed them grass, because they’re human beings.
Let’s look at some more in Mark. Mark 6, verse 36, it says, “Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” Verse 37, “You give them something to eat. Give it to them to eat.” Verse 42, “And they all ate and were satisfied.” See? It’s about eating, which a lot of people like to do. Chapter 6 of Mark, verse 43, “And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.” Now, the shepherd, Jesus, feeds the sheep until they are satisfied. Do not miss that. Verse 42, “And they all ate and were satisfied.” And there was still some left over. Verse 43, “And they took up the twelve baskets full of broken pieces and the fish.”
When you want more, Jesus is saying, it is here. Come to me. I will feed you until you want no more and if you want more, it’s always here. It’s an abundance. I have these great riches. It’s limitless provision. Just come to me. It’s not like the shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel who fed themselves and not you. They ate the food. It was as if they were devouring the sheep, but Jesus would willingly on the cross be devoured for the sheep in order that He might feed them until they’re satisfied with baskets full left over. The sheep were fed, they were satisfied, and there was still food left over. There’s more and there’s more and there’s more. And that’s the way it has to be for Christians seeking food for their soul in the Lord Jesus Christ by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We want to give them as much as they want and need and there’s an abundance. You can always find it in Jesus.
So this is how shepherds today must feed the sheep. Is that what you think shepherds today do? What do you think?
DON: Well, if you think about -- I think about myself as a shepherd, so, no. The answer to that question is, no, I don’t feed the people that I meet on a daily basis with the same energy and enthusiasm that Jesus wants us to. I think there’s times when, you know, maybe I
read something that morning or during the day that just excites me and I want to share it, but the fear -- it sounds -- I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the fear that I might offend somebody or I might turn somebody off or I might say the wrong thing and drive them away, that holds me back a little bit.
DREW: Another question is when you think of Jesus, not only in contrast to the shepherd kings of Israel who failed, but just from this one passage in Mark thinking of Jesus and the disciples who were satisfied with food left over. How does Jesus satisfy your soul? What about Him set forth in this passage really draws you to Him?
JOHN: He’s our provider.
DON: Well, the one thing that I just want to point out for myself going through this study was I didn’t realize the importance of the left over. That was kind of like a throw away verse that was just in there, but now it’s like, wow, yeah. That’s really the important thing that there is always more of Christ available. And I think, again, we as believers we need to remember that, too, is that you may be ministering to somebody and sharing God’s word and you may begin to become fatigued, but there’s always somebody else. There’s always another brother or sister who can come along side that person and give them the more.
DREW: That’s right. Very good.
NANCY: It’s interesting that you said that, because I was having the same thought that I can’t tell you how many times I have read that passage and I’ve been like, well, that’s really good. It’s a great story about what happened, but this whole idea of there being all this left over, I’m never going to read the passage -- I’m never going to look at the passage the same way again. I mean, it’s amazing. There’s just so much more to it than I recognized. And one other thing I wanted to say when you were talking about the green grass before, I think that’s a really interesting phrase, too, from the standpoint that green grass is life-giving. I mean, the fact that it’s green is kind of a representation of a life-giving entity. It’s not brown. It’s not dead. It’s green. And not only is it living, it’s growing, so it just continues.
MARY: With you mentioning the green grass, I have a very visual mind and what I picture is just the sunny day laying on that soft green grass feeling enveloped in God’s love and it’s there. And so I don’t think the term green was just thrown in and I don’t think the abundance was just thrown in. I think it’s to let you know that it’s there and it’s enveloping you and it’s hugging you. And I can just picture myself laying down in the grass just enjoying God’s grace.
DREW: That’s exactly what we’re meant to do. In order for grass to be green, as you’ve either mentioned or alluded to, there has to be an abundance of water. Remember Psalm 1, “The righteous is like the tree planted by streams of living water.” And that’s the idea and, of course, we know that Jesus is that, too, the living or the flowing water of the Spirit. And so there’s everything about this that exudes life. The grass that’s watered, it’s green. The sheep are now resting and they’re grazing, but it’s not on grass; it’s on food that Jesus gives them, it’s on Jesus himself. Every person there, they all ate, and were satisfied. In another passage is not only was it 5,000 men, but you had women and children there, too. It could have been at least 15,000 people. They all ate and were satisfied. It’s not a problem for Him. Not a problem. Matter of fact, it’s not even close to a problem. They took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and fish just left over. Just come and eat. That’s why I’ve come.
PENNY: I was just going to point out another thing. We’re talking a lot about feeling and about seeing and visual and I think the thing that always strikes me in this passage is His compassion. Because apart from everyone else in the religious order at this time, the side you see of the pharisees, they did not have compassion. It was all about law and regulations and you either fit -- and then even deception. So, I mean, we could even go further, they’re creating their own traditions and religion within Judaism. And so, for me, when I see compassion, I think that’s another way we feel and the way we minister to people is we feel what they’re feeling. And when shepherds aren’t feeling when other Christians -- whether they’re pastors or elders or deacons or an official title or just other people, brothers and sisters in Christ -- aren’t feeling, there’s a big problem. There’s a big problem. That should be a big red flag, because compassion is the number one thing that Jesus has over and over in the gospels for the people that are lost.
DREW: You mentioned officers in a church and I don’t want to take us down this path, but it’s the idea of usually there are those typical passages, which is fine, First Timothy 3, Titus 1, “If a man or if a person desires to be an overseer, it’s a noble thing, but he must be,” et cetera. But leaders should be the most mature among us in an official capacity and that’s why I think we should put the fruit of the Spirit in there: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those should be preeminent on the list of qualifications for any office. It’s not whether they can manage or whether they can come together, put their heads together once a month, and make a decision. Some of the time they can; most of the time they really don’t work all that well. But if you look at the fruit of the Spirit, there’s no mistake about who the most mature are. Exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit is far more important than the ‘I’m in charge’ leadership style, or a secret, exclusive club which operates in isolation from the rest of the church body.
PENNY: Well, I want to say one other thing to that, because if we look at where Jesus is going it’s often those, too, who suffer the greatest. When I look at people who have ministered in my life, to me, it’s those people who either have come along side me or I know they have suffered greatly and tremendously and I’m ready to listen, because suffering produces maturity and fruit. It’s not just showing up at church on Sunday or every other time you can be fed, but it’s actually applying it; right? It’s doing it. So you can know it and not do anything with it all day long.
DON: You mentioned compassion and I think that that’s pivotal for those of us that are in the work force as leaders and I don’t care what your role is, you know, what your job is. As a leader, you’ve got to have compassion for the people that you’re working with or that you’re directing, because you never know what someone might be experiencing in their life. And having compassion for their situation I think is vital to leading them throughout the day to perform their task, because they still have to perform their task. But if they know that you have compassion for them, I think they’ll respond much better.
DREW: What do hungry sheep or hungry Christians look like? Just think of this passage or others. What should we be like when it comes to nurturing and nourishing our souls, feeding off Jesus, the bread of life, the fountain of living water? What is it like to be a hungry Christian characteristically?
DON: Well, I know that when I’m hungry I’m usually in a bad place. It means that I’m struggling with something. More than likely it’s work related, but if I would take the time and just offer up a prayer at that moment or, you know, I’ve got two or three different Bible apps on my phone. If I would take time and just read a little bit of scripture, just to bring me back into the presence of the Lord, I think the day would or that moment or whatever you’re going into, the meeting that you’re going into, would go a lot smoother. I think I remember telling Nancy that one of the things that I used to do if I knew I was going into a meeting with someone that I knew was going to be contentious I would pray the Lord’s Prayer just before I went into the meeting and it changed my attitude. That person was still contentious, but it gave me the ability to cope with it.
JOHN: What I would normally pray for wisdom.
MARY: I was also thinking that we can’t listen with our ears, we have to listen with our hearts, because that person on that other side could be going through all kinds of things and smiling and have bright eyes, but you have to listen to the words behind it and then bring Christ and the Holy Spirit into it and then you can help them like you guys have done today for me.
PENNY: You’ve been wonderful. I was thinking, too, with the disciples specifically in this verse, when you said -- when we were reading it said, “And when it grew late His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a desolate place and the hour is now late,” and then -- in other words they’re open to what Jesus wants them to do and I think that’s exactly what Don is saying. You know, send up a prayer, be open. You know, sometimes we’re between a rock and a hard place. That’s where we’re supposed to be so that we turn, just like the disciples, to Jesus.
DREW: That’s great, because here you have a desolate place and you have Jesus and Jesus wins. It’s doesn’t matter. There’s an abundance in a desolate place. It’s that servant David from Ezekiel 34 coming through.
NANCY: I think the other thing is looking -- when you asked that question I kind of looked at hunger in a little bit different way and I think it’s important for us as Christians to always be hungering after more of what Jesus can feed us with. And if you are continually hungering, you are, in fact, then trying to reach out to gain more knowledge of Him. Because just think of how you feel about friends that you have or your spouses. If you love somebody, you want to be with that person and you hunger after more time with them and so we need to be hungering after more time that we spend with Jesus so that we can learn more.