Message from Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
by Major Pauline
note: These are preaching notes, not academic essay papers,
and so may lack a reference here or there (indeed, they were
prepared for preaching and not for wider readership).
It is not the intent to withhold credit from a source.
I don’t know what is your opinion of “23 and me” and other
such DNA tests, but this week CBC aired an interview with
author A. J. Jacobs. In his latest book, “It’s all relative –
adventures up and down the family tree,” he delves into his
own genealogy and chronicles his plans for what he hoped would
become the largest “family” reunion in history. Through DNA
analysis he has discovered his relation to Hillary Clinton,
Lady Gaga, Barack Obama. His goal, to help us realize the
simple but key truth that we are all somehow related, that it
is scientifically true that we are one human family. His hope
is that by helping people realize our interconnectedness it
may lead us to treat each other better.
The same day I read a recommended spiritual exercise: sit in a
public place, a park, an airport and just watch people go by,
but as each person goes by think: Jesus died for him, Jesus
died for her, I tried it on Friday as I stood ringing the
bells, watching people, each so unique, some with head
coverings, shaved heads, dressed like models, or like I would
dress, of all ages. It really causes you to see people
differently. Try it next time you do a kettle shift, it
transforms it into a time of prayer. But even more, if we
could keep this thought in mind, I am sure this awareness
would affect the way we treat one another.
Our DNA may have the world interconnected, yet our
care/concern for humanity goes beyond genealogies. Jesus
cares, profoundly loves each individual throughout the world.
They are loved as I am loved.
Today is the last Sunday in the Christian calendar, the Sunday
when we reflect on Christ the King.
Our reading from the Epistles lead us praying that our
eyes may be opened, so
that we may know Jesus better. I don’t know if you noticed
it when we did our Responsive Reading but it seems as the
Spirit was opening Paul’s eyes to the wonder of who Jesus us,
he ran out of vocabulary –
how can I explain to
you who Jesus is:
He is far above every rule and authority, power and dominion…
every name in the present and the future… He fills everything
in every way!
The Message translation expresses Jesus’ greatness saying He
is: in charge of
running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments,
no name and no power exempt from His rule. And not just for
the time being, but forever…
And so we appropriately sung: “My Jesus, my Saviour, Lord
there is none like You.”
May our eyes continue to be opened to who Jesus is.
Keep this in mind, as we look at the words from Ezekiel 34.
The context in which Ezekiel ministered: Ezequiel was both a
priest and a prophet. He had grown up during the spiritual
revival and reforms under King Josiah, then he experienced
society’s disregard of their relationship with God and, even
though he himself was serving the Lord, he suffered the
consequence of the people’s waywardness and was taken captive
in the deportation of 597 BC to Babylon.
What does a person do when removed from
their home and place of ministry? Ezekiel continued being a
priest and a prophet. He ministered to the exiled Jews in
Babylonia and taught them both regarding God’s judgment and
A critique of the leaders – the shepherds
Have you ever thought that the image of a Shepherd had
Have you ever thought of our Prime Minister as the
Shepherd of Canada? Or of the CEO and president of a company,
the small business owner as the shepherd of those under her
Ezekiel 34 is a political critique
probably of the leaders of Israel and Judah but also the
rulers of Babylon. The fact is that because the people had
been exploited, the nation had been destroyed. And in Ezekiel
34 we find the nations’ leaders referred to as shepherds,
emphasizing the ruler’s responsibility to establish justice so
that the people may flourish.
That is what we want from our leaders, that is what we expect!
that they will establish and preserve justice so that we may
But verses 11-16 are for the people, for
the sheep, and it’s like reading Psalm 23 in prose. It is
powerful. This is almighty God saying, enough! I will search
for my sheep, I will seek them, I will rescue them, I will
bring them out, I will feed them, I myself will be their
shepherd, I will “make them lie down”,
I will bind the injured, I will strengthened the weak,
I will feed them with justice.
If you see yourself at all needing such an intervention in
your life, what a hope! This is Almighty God rolling up his
sleeves, hands on, interacting with us, caring profoundly and
setting things straight.
The hope increases as we read vs. 20-24
I will save my flock,
they shall no longer be ravaged. (v.21) There we see the
promise of the Messiah, the Shepherd King from the line of
David. When the
Holy Spirit gave these words to the prophet, Ezekiel probably
had in mind an immediate restitution of the dynasty of David
to the throne in Jerusalem. And they continue waiting…
When the early church considered these
words, they saw in the Davidic reference an anticipation of
Jesus. They made the
association with Jesus’ words, as we can see recorded, for
example, in the Gospel of John, chapter 10 where Jesus
describes himself as “the good shepherd”. He is the new ruler
who cares for the flock (John 10:3-7) and he will provide
abundant life (John 10:10). Jesus tells us he came to heal and
to save, to forgive, to feed.
And if you think of Jesus’ style of leadership, He had
no shred of self-indulgence in contrast to the leaders
described in Ezekiel. He came for the common good.
The words of Ezekiel would have challenged the exiles in
Babylon to be a people of integrity and given them hope as
they waited. God sees you. God will intervene.
The first Christians saw clearly, God is intervening.
But now today, as we read these words we need to consider what
is the Holy Spirit saying to us, today.
On the basis of Ezekiel 34, we could
criticize current shepherds… the truth is that our society is
governed by the wealthy and strong. A commentator south of the
border reflects that tax laws, regulatory agencies… are all
administered by the “fat and strong” to their own benefit and
to the neglect of the hungry sheep who are without resources.
Governments are not
responding to the environmental crisis, because regulation
might “hurt the economy.”
I would suspect it is not much different in Canada.
What about the off shore accounts? With each revelation
of a new list of names, I am praying please let there not be a
respected Christian name among them.
The wealthiest sheltering their wealth from taxes which
are meant to maintain the wellbeing of all the sheep.
It is easy to point fingers, but Ezekiel 34 does produce a bit
of discomfort because it also says “Therefore,
thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between
the fat sheep and the lean sheep.
The criticism moves from the shepherds to the sheep
themselves. And it says:
Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all
the weak animals with your horns
The stronger sheep instead of helping the weaker ones, push
them out of their way, they will be held to account!
I myself am stepping in and making things right between the
plump sheep and the skinny sheep. Because you forced your way
with shoulder and rump and butted at all the weaker animals
with your horns (The Message)
I don’t know about you, but as I was reading Ezekiel 34 at
this time, in the time and place we are living in, I had
trouble identifying with the lean sheep, especially
considering what is happening around the world. This is a
sobering thought. When the Lord says:
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. We
all have a measure of power, don’t we?
How are we using our resources, our means, our power
This is the key question for me, for us today:
Are we the sleek and the strong or are we the hands and feet
of God through whom He wants to shepherd the flock with
The Gospel reading for today was Matthew
25. There we read of the day when Jesus will come back and He
will separate – as he himself describes us – the sheep from
the goat. On what
basis? I was hungry and you fed (or did not feed) me, I was
sick, I was in jail…
Truly I tell you, whatever you did or (did not do) for one of
the least of these, you did (or did not do) for me.’ (Matt
Some of us here have the skill and influence to address the
causes of injustice, others have the gifting to care for those
suffering the consequences, we all have a role.
We are not only somehow related as human beings, our
Lord and Saviour deeply identifies with the least and he
points to his children, to the church and says whatever you do
for the least you do for me.
Today the bulletin may have seemed a little overwhelming at
first reading: support the YP dept, prepare to give for the
white fund, volunteer for kettles, give, give, give.
What amazes me is that these are all things within our
reach. We want to be there for our children, for those within
our congregation when they go through a difficult time, but
also for our neighbours. The timing of this scripture as we as
a congregation are pulling together to raise funds to resource
our Community and Family Services so that throughout the year
we can continue giving relief and hope to those in need around
us is good. And Jesus says, each time you do it, you are doing
it for me.
But, Ezekiel 34 challenges us to search deeper into our soul
in all honesty, to see if there is any way in which I am using
my power for my benefit at the expense of my weaker brother?
My resources at the expense of my weaker sister?
We are going to sing song 935.
Key question: Are we the sleek and the strong or are we the
hands and feet of God through whom He is shepherding the flock
*editor's note: These are preaching notes, not academic essay
papers, and so may lack a reference here or there (indeed,
they were prepared for preaching and not for wider
is not the intent to withhold credit from a source.
Expositor's Bible Commentary, The, Pradis
CD-ROM:Ezekiel/Introduction to Ezekiel/Background of
Ezekiel, Book Version: 4.0.2
Margaret Odell, Professor of Religion