In the book of Ezekiel, we see that Jerusalem had fallen and most of God’s people were in exile in Babylon. But then Ezekiel brought a message of hope and restoration from the Lord to his people who might have thought their God had abandoned them in this tough time.
I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be shamed. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another. And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among my people. I, the Lord, have spoken! (Ezekiel 34:22-24)
A “shepherd” in the ancient Near East was not only a term for one who tended sheep, it was also a common metaphor for a king. Good kings who led their people with strength and wisdom resembled good shepherds who endured the elements, protected their flocks against wild beasts, and tenderly led their sheep to good pastures. So, when Ezekiel announced God’s plan to send his royal Shepherd to tend his flock, it meant that God would put in place a Shepherd who would bring everyone back out of captivity and into his fold where he would rule with tenderness, not with brute power.
One flock, one Shepherd. No doubt it was this prophecy that was in Jesus’ mind and in the minds of those who knew the scriptures when he said:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep………I have other sheep, too, that are not in the sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd. (John 10: 11,16)
Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Shepherd. But obviously not all of Ezekiel’s prophecy was fulfilled in Christ’s first coming. Ezekiel said that God’s people will “no longer be prey for other nations,” will “live in safety” (34:28), and will “never again suffer from famines” (34:29). That day is still to come, and will surely come when the Good Shepherd returns. Finally, all of God’s children will be able to lie down in green pastures in safety with the good Shepherd, God’s Son, Jesus.
Even in the toughest of times, may we make the choice to listen and follow the Good Shepherd’s voice.
Prayer – My strong and trustworthy Shepherd, I have heard your voice and I am yours. How I long for that day when you return and I can finally live in perfect safety.
Incumbent at St Aidan's Anglican Church,