Today’s reading: Ezekiel 34-36.
“I thought we elected our government so they could make life better for everyone. What are they really doing?”
A shepherd’s work isn’t easy, but it’s very important for the safety and health of the sheep. He has to deprive himself of comfort in order to take care of the flock. The sheep do a terrible job of looking after themselves. They need someone to guide them to food and water and to protect them from enemies. If the shepherd neglects his responsibility the sheep suffer.
Ezekiel declares that Israel’s shepherds abandoned their responsibility to care for the people. Even worse, they used their position to enrich themselves at the expense of the ones they were supposed to help. These shepherds weren’t pastors; they were the rulers – kings, nobles, authorities, and religious leaders. They failed to carry out their God-given task of doing good for the people.
Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. Ezekiel 34:2-5
Let’s look at what the leaders should have been doing:
- They should have cared for their flock.
- Strengthening the weak, sick, and injured.
- Recovering those who strayed away from society and became lost.
- Preventing others from wandering away.
- Protecting everyone from danger.
If we apply this job description to government or religious leaders, we can see that some of these tasks don’t get done very well. Cities put a lot of effort into protecting citizens from danger, but don’t do such a good job of recovering those who have fallen out of society. Churches may do a good job of caring for the sick, but don’t do as well at preventing individuals in the congregation from wandering away.
Ezekiel charged the rulers with eating the flock rather than caring for it. A good shepherd would see his flock grow fat and multiply in numbers. Instead, Israel’s wicked rulers were creating poverty. Because they failed to do their job, God took away their position of leadership. He said he would take care of the sheep, and to guarantee they received good care he would appoint “one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.” David was a shepherd before he was king, and his descendant, Jesus, became the good shepherd who still cares for God’s people. We serve him best when we follow in his footsteps by being good shepherds for those under our care, whether we serve in government, through our churches, or in our secular work.