By Sam E. Stone
Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry began while the Jews were in Babylonian captivity. He warned of the coming destruction of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 1-24). Later he delivered God’s judgment on various nations (Ezekiel 25-32). Our text today is taken from the latter period of Ezekiel’s preaching, as he brought hope for the exiles (Ezekiel 33-48). Although the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC, even this city would be restored, the prophet told them. The name of the restored city will be “The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35).
Today we conclude this quarter’s study on the general theme of God’s desire for justice, as shown in his dealings with the “chosen people.” We have seen the topic highlighted in 12 Old Testament books. It is clear that God desires his children to show compassion and care for others, just as he does for them.
Presence of a Shepherd
Ezekiel 34:23, 24
In contrast to the many bad shepherds who had ruled in the past, in the future there would be only one shepherd—and he would be a good one. The divided kingdom would be united once more, no longer two separate kingdoms in two separate places. God promised to restore all that the exiles had lost—their land, peaceful neighbors, and the presence of the Son of David on the throne.
At that time “My servant David” would personally feed the flock. James E. Smith explains, “Yahweh would be their God, but this new David would be ‘prince among them’ (34:23, 24). Jesus of Nazareth, who was descended from David (Matthew 1:1), claimed to be the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14). That God would restore the Davidic dynasty in the person of an incomparable king is a prominent teaching of Old Testament prophetic literature.” This David would occupy David’s heavenly throne forever (see
Promise of Blessings
A helpful parallel passage to study along with today’s printed text is found in Leviticus 26:4-13. Much of Ezekiel’s message is also affirmed there. God reassured Israel that he would be true to the promises he had made to them in the past. This included the extermination of everything that could injure them, even wild beasts. The people would be able to sleep securely, whether in the desert or the forest (Ezekiel 34:25; compare Leviticus 26:6). The land would receive abundant rain as well, assuring a great harvest from the crops. To sum it up, “The people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord.”
Along with these physical blessings, God promised to rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. God had punished the people by allowing the nation to be conquered and taken into captivity. This caused the neighboring peoples to ridicule them and mock their God. No more! Exile and slavery are not part of their future any longer (compare Leviticus 26:7, 8).
People of God
Ezekiel 34:30, 31
From now on, the people will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people. What could be of more encouragement? God’s name—Lord God—is used more by Ezekiel than all of the other prophets combined. His message carries with it the authority of the very words of God himself. While some understand Ezekiel to be describing the millennium here, Smith notes that “others with more probability see in these words poetic descriptions of the new Israel of God, the church of Christ, which enjoys peace, security and blessing under the present-day rule of the scion from David’s house.”
C. F. Keil adds, “If, then, we seek for the fulfillment, the Lord raised up his servant David as a shepherd to Israel, by sending Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10; Matthew 18:11), and who calls himself the Good Shepherd with obvious reference to this and other prophetic descriptions of a similar kind (John 10:11).”
In Scripture God’s presence with his people is often compared to the care a good shepherd gives his flock (see Psalm 23). Bad shepherds come and go, but the eternal Good Shepherd is dependable and unfailing. Eternal peace in absolute security is initiated by Christ himself (Philippians 4:7) and will ultimately be experienced by the redeemed of the ages in Heaven itself.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.