“I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 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.” (Ezekiel 34:15-16)

Ezekiel preached an oracle condemning the shepherds of Judah, in this case the kings and priests who had failed to fulfill their responsibility. He followed this condemnation with a promise that He would install a good shepherd over His people. The Lord promised that His shepherd would care for the flock, protect them from external dangers and internal dissent, lead them to good pasture and clean water, search for and bring back strays and care for the weak and sick. The Kings of Judah did none of these things for their people nor did the priests. Instead they used and abused the people and increased their own prosperity and prestige at their expense and led them into idolatry and wickedness. They even allowed the fat sheep, the rich and powerful people, to abuse the weaker ones.

Although we may be tempted in our politically divisive times to apply the condemnation of the oracle to our own political leaders, such an application, though relevant, does not fit the purpose of this oracle. Instead we are first to take great comfort from these words: the passage describes the Lord’s perfect shepherd, the Messiah, Jesus our Lord and Savior who rules over us. He cares for us in love. In Him all believers have unity and peace despite their ethnic, national, racial or political origins and affiliations and differences.

Secondly we are to realize that our own pastoral leaders are to model themselves after the Good Shepherd as they are called to stand in His place. Pastors are to feed believers the pure word of God, as well as lead and guide them in Christian obedience. Good pastors realize that they lead and guide the sheep that God has entrusted to them. They model themselves on Jesus and lay down their lives for those in their care. The pastor who realizes that he is a servant of God is a great blessing to the Church.