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This may well have been Ezekiel’s first public utterance since the messenger came with the news that Jerusalem had fallen (ch 33:21). The prophet makes clear that behind the waywardness of God’s people lay a failure of leadership, here expressed by the shepherd metaphor. Those who are leaders do well to ponder verses 1–6. Are the weak strengthened, the sick healed, the injured bound up? Are the strays brought back and the lost sought after (v 4)? Are unhealthy attitudes and behaviours in the body of Christ a priority to be dealt with? Or do personal issues get in the way?
If there was failed leadership in sixth century BC Israel, there were also unruly followers. Willful squandering of resources (vv 18,19) and mutual victimization (v 21) were making the flock dysfunctional.
Verses 17–19 raise some hard questions for those of us who are followers. Do we shove and butt one another rather than committing ourselves to follow the vision of our leaders? Do we muddy the water by withholding our resources unless the church agrees to use them according to our personal preferences?
Then the Good Shepherd himself steps in and takes over. Verse 23 foresees the coming of Jesus as Messiah. He is the Shepherd through whom the Lord will make a covenant of peace with his people (v 25). While Ezekiel and his contemporaries could only anticipate the coming of Jesus, we are able to celebrate it. But do we? Are we asking him to establish his peace (“shalom” or well-being of all) in our fellowship? Are we willing to hand our local church back to Jesus? After all, the church is his body, not our own private club.
Father, we pray as Paul did for the Ephesians, “Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 6:23).
First used in Encounter with God, April – June 2015, written by Fergus Macdonald, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.