The chapter begins with an excoriation of those who have been bad shepherds over the flock of Israel. With as much anger as Jesus displays in calling out the Pharisees for their hypocritical spiritual abuse of God's people, Ezekiel likewise denounces the leaders who have harmed those under their care. Instead of feeding and tending the sheep, he charges, they have taken care of themselves. Ezekiel rounds on them, "You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them"" (vs. 3 and 4). The shepherds of Israel have failed.
As a result, the sheep are left scattered. Four times Ezekiel uses the word "scattered" to describe the people in verses 5 and 6. Jesus will evoke this same image to show His compassion on the people when he views them as "sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). When Jesus proclaims, "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:11), could he not have been referencing Ezekiel 34:11-31?
Consider some of God's promises in these verses:
- "I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out" (vs. 11).
- "I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep" (vs. 15).
- "I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed" (vs. 16).
- "I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between ram and goats" (vs. 17).
- "I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd" (vs. 23).
This chapter is thick with God's heart of love for His people, a love that Jesus exemplified with His message of grace and mercy, and His sacrificial death upon the cross. Surely God is the good shepherd!