1 “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,” As no date is given,
we may infer that what follows came as an almost immediate sequel to that which
precedes it. The kernel of the chapter is found in the Messianic prophecies
vs. 23-24, as the first stage in the restoration of
to the prophet’s gaze. We can hardly avoid seeing in it the deliberate expression of
words that had been spoken by Ezekiel’s master (Jeremiah 23:1-4), and which in his
case also were followed by a directly Messianic announcement. In Matthew 9:36,
still more in John 10:1-16, we can scarcely avoid recognizing the distinct
appropriation of the words to Himself by Him of whom they both had
spoken. So far as we may venture to speculate on the influence, so to
speak, of the words of the prophets of the Old Testament on our Lord’s
human soul, we may think of these as having marked out for Him the work
which He was to do, just as we may think of Psalm 22. and Isaiah 53. as
having pointed out to Him the path of suffering which He was to tread.
2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of
and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds;
Woe be to the shepherds of
not the shepherds feed the flocks?” Prophesy against the shepherds of Israel,
etc. Our modern associations with the words, our use of terms like “the pastoral
office,” “the pastoral Epistles,” lead us to think of the priests and prophets, the
spiritual guides of the people, as being those whom the prophet has in
view. In the language of the Old Testament, however, as in that of Homer
(‘Iliad,’ 1:1. 263; 2:1. 85, etc.), the shepherds of the people are always its
kings and other civil rulers (I Kings 22:17; Psalm 77:20; 78:71-72; Jeremiah 23:1-6),
and those whom Ezekiel had in his thoughts were the tyrannous rulers of the
house of David, like Jehoiakim and Zedekiah and their satellites. Our Christian
thoughts of the word are the outcome of the leading of John 10:1-16; 21:15-17;
I Peter 5:2-4; Acts 20:28; but it is probably true that even there the original thought
is still dominant. Christ is the “good Shepherd,” because He is the true King. His
ministers are shepherds as being officers in His kingdom. Should not the shepherds
feed the flocks? The question is an appeal to the universal conscience of
do that which the very name implied. He that neglects that duty is simply as
a hireling or a robber (John 10:10, 12).
3 “Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that
are fed: but ye feed not the flock.” Ye eat the fat. The Septuagint and the
Vulgate, following a different reading, give milk, and, as “killing” comes in
the next clause, this is probably preferable (compare I Corinthians 9:7; Isaiah 7:22).
4 “The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that
which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken,
neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither
have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty
have ye ruled them.” The diseased have ye not strengthened. The verbs
indicate the difference between the “diseased,” i.e. the weak sheep (comp.
Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 78:71) and the sick, that were suffering from
more definite maladies. So the broken are the sheep that have fallen from a
rock and thus maimed themselves. Each case required its appropriate
treatment, and none had met with it.
5 “And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they
became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were
scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon
every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth,
and none did search or seek after them.” And they were scattered. The words
are an echo of I Kings 22:17, and are, in their turn, echoed by Matthew 9:36. The
words that follow paint the sufferings of the exiles who left their homes
and were scattered among the heathen in the days of Jehoiachin and
Zedekiah. Of these the kings took no heed, and shut themselves up in the
luxurious seclusion of their palace.
7 “Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
8 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a
prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field,
because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search
for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my
flock; 9 Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and
I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from
feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any
more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may
not be meat for them.” As I live, saith the Lord God, etc. The sentence of the
Supreme Judge, of the “chief Shepherd” (I Peter 5:4), that follows, is
naturally preceded by a recapitulation of the guilt of the tyrannous rulers
— the “idol” or sham shepherds of Zechariah 11:17 (compare also (Ibid. ch.10:3).
Both chapters should be studied as throwing light on the teaching of the earlier
prophet. It may be noted also how the thought enters into Ezekiel’s vision of the
Shepherds Denounced (vs. 1-10)
leaders. Theirs is the greatest guilt. They were placed in positions which
led to much being expected of them. Their failure means a corresponding
guilt. The princes and priests, the political leaders and the religious
teachers, would be included under the designation “shepherds.” The same
two classes and other varieties may be seen today; i.e. political rulers,
Christian ministers, leaders of public movements, public writers; all who
influence others in thought and life are like
grounds of the great responsibility of such people.
Ø Privilege. The shepherds have the honor of being set over the flock.
Position is a privilege; it brings a responsibility.
Ø Power. There is the natural power of superior gifts. The shepherd is
higher in mental power than his sheep. Great intellectual gifts bring
with them a sort of pastoral responsibility in regard to weaker minds.
There is the superadded power of office. The shepherd is appointed
over the sheep. All who are placed in positions of influence are made
Ø Positive wrong-doing.
o Self-seeking. The shepherds feed themselves instead of
feeding the flock. They are mere hirelings, not true
shepherds (John 10:13). All who undertake public office
for the sake of private gain belong to this disgraceful
category. It would be hypocritical to suppose that the
shepherd should not consider his wages. But his fault is
when he puts his profit above his duty.
o Cruelty. The shepherds “kill them that are fed.” They are worse
than hirelings; they behave like robbers and wolves. So was it in
the Middle Ages, when bishops preyed on their flocks. The same
is true of all tyrannous governments under which rulers oppress
the people for their own advantage. It applies to the use of power
and influence for selfish advantage to the injury of others, as in
making a living out of pernicious literature, etc.
Ø Negative negligence. Looking after themselves, the wicked shepherds
neglect their flock.
o The flock is not fed. It is the duty of the preacher to feed Christ’s
sheep (John 21:16). If he is making his own profit to the neglect
of this duty the people may starve for lack of the bread of life.
o The sick are not tended. Care for the sick sheep is an especial
duty of the true shepherd. Sick souls need sympathy and help.
The poor, the unfortunate, the sorrowful, the fallen, are all
neglected by self-seeking leaders.
o The sheep are scattered. There is no bond of union. The sheep
do not listen to the voice of the bad shepherd. He forgets to call
them, or does so in a listless, unattractive manner, or makes
himself uninteresting to them, so that they will not respond.
Bad leaders scatter the Church.
o Wild beasts ravage the flock. David delivered his flock from a
lion and a bear. “The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep”
(John 10:11). But the hireling fleeth at the sight of the wolf
(Ibid. v. 13). With bad leaders men are a prey to evil and error.
Ø God’s opposition. “Behold, I am against the shepherds.” They
may be stronger than the sheep, but God is stronger than ALL!
Faithlessness in office provokes God’s great wrath.
Ø Hopeless requirements. “I will require my flock at their hand.”
But it is lost!
Ø Loss of office. The bad shepherds are dismissed. The unfaithful servant
is deprived of his talent (Matthew 25:28). Disgrace, dismissal, ruin, are
the punishments of unfaithful service.
The Human Shepherds of the Flock (vs. 1-10)
It is a comparison as old, yes, older than literature, this of the people to a
flock of sheep, and of their rulers, leaders, and spiritual instructors to the
shepherds whose vocation it is to protect, care for, and feed them. Both in
the Old and New Testament Scriptures we meet with passages in which
unfaithful, careless, selfish, and grasping religious teachers and leaders are
denounced as hirelings who have nothing of the true shepherd’s heart —
no watchfulness, commiseration, and self-sacrifice. In the time of Ezekiel
there were those who, called to be pastors and reputed to be pastors, were
nevertheless destitute of the pastoral character and habits.
manner) with outspoken plainness described in these verses.
Ø The shepherds’ neglect of the flock. They neither feed them upon
suitable pastures, nor strengthen the weak, nor heal the sickly, nor
recover the lost, nor deliver the defenseless sheep from the wild beasts
of the field. On the contrary, they treat them with violence and with
Ø The shepherds’ care for themselves. They use the flock merely for their
own pleasure and advantage, eating of the flesh of the sheep, and
clothing themselves with their wool.
Ø The consequent condition of the flock. Neglected by their custodians,
they are scattered, they wander upon every high hill, they fall a prey
to the beasts of the field. In all these respects there is a parallel between
the conduct of careless, hireling shepherds and the conduct of those in
whether priests or prophets by profession, simply used their position
as a means towards their personal wealth, ease, pleasure, and
aggrandizement. And no wonder that the sons of Israel, so neglected
by those who should have made their highest welfare their care, were
abandoned to every enemy, and sank into a state of degeneration,
debasement, and hopelessness.
not pass unnoticed and unpunished may be presumed by the least
thoughtful. Under the rule of A GOVERNOR OF INFINITE JUSTICE,
those placed in a position of eminence and of influence, if they neglect to
fulfill the duties of their position, must surely be called to an exact account
of their trust. The prophet tells us concerning the unfaithful shepherds that:
Ø God is against them. He, whose help and countenance would have
been vouchsafed had they honestly and earnestly set themselves to
do the work which they professed to undertake, now sets Himself
against the unfaithful.
Ø They are held responsible for the flock. “I will require,” says God,
“my sheep at their hand.”
Ø The custody of the flock is taken away from them. And at the same
time, they are prevented from any more feeding themselves. It cannot
be that the flock should be punished for wandering, and that the
careless shepherds, through whose neglect they wandered, should be
suffered to go free.
11 “For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search
my sheep, and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the
day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep,
and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the
cloudy and dark day.” Behold, I, even I, etc. The words, as the last reference
shows, and as we find in vs. 23-31, do not exclude, rather they imply, human
instrumentality, just us our Lord’s do in Matthew 18:12 and Luke 15:4-7;
but they reveal the truth that Jehovah is the true Shepherd of His
people. Not the sweet
use the language of Psalm 23., and say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” He
will gather the sheep that have been scattered in the “cloudy and dark day,”
the day of the Lord’s judgment (ch.30:3). For the prophet the
words pointed to that vision of a restored
the expectations both of Isaiah and inEzekiel (chps. 40-48), and in Jeremiah
(Jeremiah 33:12-18), which floated before the minds of the apostles (Acts 1:6),
and to which even Paul looked forward as the solution of the great problems
of the world’s history (Romans chapters 9-11.).
God’s Interest in Men (vs. 11-12)
We learn of the interest God takes in us that He is:
of the land regarded those who were at the bottom of society as beneath
their consideration. What mattered it if they lived in privation and in
ignorance, so long as the royal palace, so long as the costly castle, was well
furnished? But this distinction between the worth of men on the ground of
social rank or of circumstance finds no place at all in the mind and heart of
God. He cares for men as they are; possessed as they are with a nature that
is capable of great things — great sufferings, sorrows, degradation,
iniquities, on the one hand, and great joys, hopes, nobilities, achievements,
on the other hand. Not where we stand or what we hold, but what we are
and what we may become, is the Divine consideration.
the flock by the selfish shepherds that drives the sheep to the notice of the
Divine Shepherd, and that draws out His pitiful pastoral affection (vs. 8-11).
And we may infer that the neglected, because they are such, are the
objects of the Divine sympathy. The neglected child in the home, member
of the Church, pupil in the school, student or toiler in the world of art and
industry, citizen in social circle or the broader sphere of the nation, is the
object of the pitiful regard of One who never overlooks, who understands
how that heart feels which is wounded by the disregard of men, who
“lifteth up the meek” (Psalm 147:6); who “hath respect unto the lowly.”
(Ibid. ch. 138:6)
are far away from
still “my sheep” (v. 11); and the strain of the twelfth verse is one of
tender sympathy and earnest solicitude for those who “in the day of clouds
and thick darkness” have been “scattered on the wild.” We have wandered
away from the home of the Father; some of us into a very “far country;” it
may be that of almost entire forgetfulness; or of an utter shameless
indifference; or of a deliberate disobedience of His known will; or of an
absolute denial of His existence; or of a wanton endeavor to corrupt and
destroy the character of His children. And yet, however far we have gone
astray, in all the emptiness and spiritual poverty of our distance from home,
in all our misery and aching of heart, in all our hopelessness, our Divine
Father follows us and pities us; His heart is filled with a parental solicitude
“For though deceived and led astray,
We’ve traveled far and wandered long,
Our God hath seen us all the way,
And all the turns that led us wrong.”
my sheep, and deliver them.”
Ø The restoration of the exiled Jews may be one part of the fulfillment of
Ø The coming of the Son of man “to seek and to save that which was lost”
was a later and better fulfillment. And we find a further, a perpetual
Divine redemption of this ancient word of promise in:
The putting forth by
Whenever and however any one that, filled with the spirit of his Savior,
seeks to raise the fallen, to bring back to truth and piety those that have
gone away in the darkness, to heal the stricken and suffering spirit and to
enrobe it with “the garment of praise,” there God is Himself “searching
out His sheep,” and “delivering them from the places whither they have
wandered.” How excellent is the portion of those who are His agents in
this gracious work!
13 “And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from
the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them
upon the mountains of
places of the country. 14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the
high mountains of
and in a fat pasture
shall they feed upon the mountains of
15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the
Lord GOD.” On the mountains of
pleasant pasture-lands of
Psalm 23., of the mountains which are not barren and stony, of the streams
that flow calmly in the inhabited places of the country, serves as a parable of
that which is to follow on THE RESTORATION
that had been wandering so long in the wilderness should at last lie down in
a fat pasture (v. 15), and the tender care of the Shepherd should watch
with an individualizing pity over each sheep that had been brought back.
Every broken limb should be bound up. Every sickness should be treated
with its appropriate means of healing.
Seeking Lost Sheep (vs. 11-13)
sheep that have wandered from the fold and are lost in the wilderness.
Souls have been scattered from their shelter and have wandered into
distant places. Note some of the characteristics of the lost sheep.
Ø They were originally in the fold. This refers to Jews rather than to
heathen, to backsliding Christians, to children of Christian homes; but
also in a general way to all, because all men begin life in innocent
childhood not far from the besom of God.
They have gone into distant places.
souls depart from their homes spiritually,
o in thought, when the old beliefs are abandoned for the
wilderness of doubt;
o in life, when the old ways are left, and God and duty are
neglected. Heaven then recedes into the background.
o They were scattered. No bond of union remains. The flock,
which was a unit, becomes broken, and there are now only
separate sheep. Error and sin DISINTEGRATE SOCIETY!
o They were lost in darkness. The disaster happened “in the
cloudy and dark day.” The time of doubt, trouble, or
temptation is one of danger. Then souls may be cast adrift
for want of wise and tender shepherding.
o They suffered through the neglect of the shepherds.
The great sin is that of the faithless leaders.
God Himself desires that the lost should be restored. For He values them as
the farmer values his flock. It is not a matter of indifference to God that
souls should perish. He is not willing that any should perish but that all
should come to repentance! (John 3:16; II Peter 3:9) He does not leave
the sheep to come home, prepared to welcome them on their return; HE
SEEKS THEM! He does not only hold Himself ready to welcome the
returning penitent. He goes forth to seek him. The housewife sweeps the
house to find her lost piece of silver (Luke 15:8). The father goes to meet
the prodigal son (Ibid. v. 20).
Ø God seeks by His providence. The movements of life should bring us
back to God.
Ø He seeks by His prophets. Ezekiel was seeking the lost sheep. The Bible
is sent forth as God’s means of seeking the lost. So is all true preaching
of the gospel.
Ø He seeks by his Son (“by whom He made the worlds.” – Hebrews 1:2).
Christ came first to seek “the lost sheep
of the house of
(Matthew 15:24), and then all lost sheep. Christianity is a search for
When God finds a soul, He restores it. He may find it in the wilderness; if
so, He will not leave it there. The shepherd may find his sheep buried in the
snow; it may be hard to dig them out; he may even have to carry them
home on his shoulders. If he is strong enough he will do this. God not only
finds; HE RESTORES!
He brings the sheep home.
restored to their home in God.
Ø He feeds them. They must be hungry in the wilderness, far from the
green pastures. So “He feeds them
upon the mountains of
father kills the fatted calf for his restored son. Christ gives his body as
bread of life for His people.
Ø He refreshes them. The sheep are led “by the rivers.” They thirsted in
the wilderness; now they can drink and live. God gives new life and
peace to His restored children. Christ gives “living water” (John 4:10).
When God finds a lost soul, that soul is safe — restored, fed, refreshed
by his grace.
16 “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was
driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will
strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the
strong; I will feed them with judgment.” I will destroy the fat and the strong.
What follows introduces another feature into the parable, and is hardly less than
An anticipation of the great scene of judgment in Matthew 25:32. The “fat
and the strong,” as contrasted with the “broken” and the “sick,” are, when
we interpret the parable, the noble and wealthy who, under the kings of
he says that he will feed them with (better, in) judgment, that for them
there must be the discipline of punishment. They too are His sheep, but they
require a different treatment from the others.
The Divine Shepherd of the Flock (vs. 11-16)
What a marvelous contrast is here presented between the hireling and
unfaithful shepherds who have presumptuously undertaken the care of
God’s people, and the Lord God, who in His condescension assumes the
pastoral office, and fulfils it with Divine qualifications and completeness!
According to the beautiful and touching representation of this passage :
astray, through willfulness on their part and through negligence on the part
of the pretended shepherds. But the Divine Shepherd seeks and saves that
which was lost, and, distant though they be, and in dangerous places, finds
them out and lays His gracious hand upon them.
THEIR ENEMIES. They have their enemies, and they have fallen into their
enemies’ hands. From such peril ONE ONLY can save; and the Lord rescues
them and, in the exercise of His pity and His power, sets them free from
bondage and oppression.
OF PEACE. Even as Jehovah brought back the exiles from the East into
the land of their fathers, so does the good Shepherd and Bishop of souls
ever restore the penitent and believing to the welcome of His gracious
heart, and to the fellowship of His rejoicing Church, to go no more out.
The language of this passage is upon this point very full, rich, and
reassuring. The good Shepherd declares, “I will feed them upon the
pasture, and on fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of
We may understand by this all the provision which the wisdom and loving-
kindness of God have made for the wants and the welfare of His redeemed:
Ø the truth of His Word,
Ø the blessings of His sacraments, and
Ø the fellowship of His saints.
AND SUFFERINGS. “I will bind up that which was broken, and
strengthen that which was sick.” He healeth all our diseases. His hand
applies the remedy, administers the medicine, restores the broken health of
the soul. No necessity is uncared for; no ill fails to meet His sympathy; no
weakly, tender lamb of His flock shall perish through neglect. “He shall
gather the lambs in His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently
lead those that give suck.” (Isaiah 40:11)
amply fulfilled in the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In His
own discourses He set forth His mission under the similitude of the faithful,
devoted shepherd. He laid down His life for the sheep. The apostles felt the
justice and the beauty of the similitude. And upon the early Christians
generally it made a profound impression; in their works of art they
delighted to picture Jesus as the good shepherd.
17 “And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I
judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats.”
18 “Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good
pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your
pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul
the residue with your feet? 19 And as for my flock, they eat that which
ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled
with your feet. 20 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold,
I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.
21 Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all
the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad;
22 Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey;
and I will judge between cattle and cattle.” Behold, I judge between cattle
and cattle. It may be worth while to note, as modern English usage tends to
limit the range of the word, that it is commonly used in the Old Testament of
sheep rather than of kine (Genesis 30:34-42; 31:8-12). In Ibid. 30:32 we have the
same Hebrew word as that which Ezekiel uses. Between the rams and
the he-goats. The words, at first, seem to point to a division like that of
Matthew 25:32, and may, perhaps, have suggested it. Here, however,
the contrast lies, not between the sheep and goats as such, but between the
strong and the weak of each class. The “rams” are as much the object of
the shepherd’s discipline of judgment as the “he-goats.” Both stand as the
representative of the rapacious self-seeking classes who oppressed the poor
and needy, and, not content with being the first to feed on the pastures and
to drink of the waters, trampled on the former and defiled the latter. So in
the next verse the contrast lies between the “fat cattle,” whether sheep or
goats, and the “lean.”
The Flock Divided (v. 17)
When the flock is found it is not all treated alike. The rough, horned cattle
separated from the gentle, helpless sheep.
to prosperity as a nation without discrimination. God would judge between
the different characters of exiles. Judgment of individuals is here referred to.
NATIONS. As there are national sins, so there are national punishments,
and also national mercies. The whole nation must in a measure participate
in these things. But over and above such matters there is an individual
treatment of separate men and women. No man is safe from trouble by
belonging to a prosperous nation. God’s returning favor to a community
may leave hardened rebellious souls still in the dark.
No man is safe just because he lives in Christendom, neither is any one safe
because he is a member of any Church. There are rough, cruel animals in
the flock, which are injurious to others, and unworthy of their privileges. In
the final judgment the sheep will be separated from the goats (Matthew
25:32), and in dealing with Churches the same method of discrimination
must be applied. Indeed, it is worse for one who is not a Christian to be
enrolled in the membership of a Church, than for him to remain outside.
His position is false and hypocritical. Moreover, his presence is injurious to
the well-being of the worthy members. If the rough, horned animals were
abroad in the wilderness, they would do little harm. The mischief arises
when they are crowded together with the sheep in one fold.
Care should be taken as to who are entrusted with the highest privileges of
Christian fellowship. It is easier not to encourage the unworthy to enter
than to eject them after they have made themselves obnoxious to the
community. Nothing can be more foolish than to enlarge the nominal roll
of a Church by including doubtful names. A wise teacher has said, “It
would be well if we had fewer Christians, and better ones.”
We can regulate the conditions of membership in organized societies. But
we cannot really determine who are true members of Christ’s flock.
Therefore, in excluding the apparently unfit from a Church, we cannot, we
dare not, pretend to pronounce a sentence of excommunication upon them.
Much less are we justified in forcibly stamping out heresy, schism, and,
what is far worse, worldly and sinful professions of Christianity, by the
rough treatment of persecution. Wheat and tares must both grow together
until the harvest (Matthew 13:30). Then, indeed, God will judge. The
great Fisherman will divide His own fish when He brings the net to land
Social Oppressions (vs. 17-22)
The wisest men detect only some of the evils that blemish a nation; they are
blind to more secret delinquencies. The Almighty Ruler detects every
hidden iniquity, nor will He spare any form of sin. (See ch. 8:5-18)
the chapter reveals God’s judgment upon evil rulers now is brought to light
the wrong-doing of men in private and unofficial stations. The sins of pride
and violence soon filter down from magnates to merchants, from princes to
peasants. Vice is more contagious than any bodily disease we are familiar
with. As children easily learn to imitate the words and ways of parents, so
men in inferior stations copy the deeds of those immediately above them.
As thistle-down bears an abundant crop of seed, so do also most kinds of
Selfishness is the prolific mother of a thousand sins. In a ruler selfishness
becomes as a scourge of scorpions to the people, and makes the man a
monster; in a private person it works a world of minor mischiefs. In any
form it is a malignant and despicable thing. As night casts its black shadow
over every scene of natural beauty, so selfishness blights and disfigures
every relationship between man and man.
Ø Here are acts of malevolence. The rich and the strong cared only for
themselves. Self-aggrandizement in them had grown into ill will for
their neighbors. National calamity, which ought to have brought them
nearer to each other for mutual help, had generated a malevolent
Ø This ill will led to acts of wanton destructiveness. Such portions of
agricultural produce as they could not use themselves they destroyed,
so that their poorer neighbors might be reduced to yet direr straits.
Never was the fable of the dog in the manger more literally realized.
Landlords who destroy cottages in order to drive out the poor from
the parish, walk in these men’s shoes.
“A Dog looking out for its afternoon nap
jumped into the manger of an Ox and
and lay there cozily upon the straw.
But soon the Ox, returning from its afternoon work,
came up to the manger and wanted to eat some straw.
The Dog, in a rage, being awakened from its slumber,
stood up and barked at the Ox, and whenever it came near
tried to bite it.
At last the Ox had to give up the hope of getting at the straw,
and went away muttering: Ah, people often grudge others
What they cannot enjoy themselves. (Aesop)
Ø Acts of personal cruelty. “They pushed the diseased with their horns
until they had scattered them.” The horns were weapons provided by
God for their defense against their foes, and it was a strange abuse of
God’s kindness to use these weapons for the injury of their suffering
fellows. Every form of disease is a mute, pathetic appeal to our better
nature for sympathy and help. We do ourselves a lasting injury when
we refuse assistance. We turn the natural milk of human kindness into
gall. Men are members of one social organism; and in injuring each
other they injure themselves. The culture of benevolence is a primary
duty — a fountain of joy.
Ø Self-blindness. To these self-indulgent men “it seemed a small thing” to
treat their weaker and suffering brethren thus. Yet it was a very mountain
of wickedness. A selfish eye looks through the wrong end of the telescope,
and sees real objects greatly minimized. By-and-by their eyes will be
opened. By-and-by the mist of appearances will vanish, and all human
actions will be revealed in naked reality. (Luke 12:2-3)
AWAY. “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I judge between cattle and
cattle.” Probably many of these rich blustering men complained bitterly
enough of the selfish violence of their rulers, and never surmised that they
were committing the very same sin under another guise. They saw the mote
in others’ eyes, yet did not suspect that a beam filled their own eye (Matthew
7:3-5). But an unseen Judge was there, and weighed in the balance of perfect
equity every deed and word of man. It is a consolation to the suffering that
deliverance from the highest source will come, and will come at the best
possible moment. The great Refiner sits by and watches the refining process
in the furnace. His plans to us are full of mystery, for our vision is very
limited, while He sees the end from the beginning. His eye skillfully
discriminates between every form and every degree of human offense.
Men will not be judged (as they are often now) in classes, but as
individuals. Some Canaanites will be accepted; some Israelites will be rejected.
Some Pharisees shall find their way to heaven; some publicans will Perish. A
Rich man may be saved in spite of the encumbrance of riches; some poor men
will be outcasts eternally because destitute of faith and love. The balance of
God is an even balance, and in His presence the smallest deception is
The Sinfulness of Selfishness (vs. 17-22)
It was not only the shepherds, but some of the sheep, of “the rams and the
he-goats,” that were injuring and robbing the sheep. It was not only the
kings and the princes, but the strong and wealthy among the people of
“who have the rule over” the Churches of Christ, but some of the fellow
members, who have to be corrected, and whose conduct needs to be
transformed. Ezekiel’s vision was that of a flock of sheep seeking
nourishment in the green pastures and by the still waters of
instead of each one taking its turn and making room for its fellow, he saw
the strong ones eating and drinking themselves, and befouling the grass and
the water for those who came after, or else pushing violently at the weaker
ones and driving them away, “scattering them abroad” to pine and to
perish, for anything they cared. A painful picture of a selfish society, each
man struggling for himself, and “the weaker going to the wall.” How
utterly unlike should this scene be to any community that claims to be
Christian! And yet shall we venture to say that there are no societies that
bear that name, and that write themselves among the number of the good,
to whose condition this prophet’s picture bears a sad resemblance? Do we
not see in countries and communities where nothing like this should be
seen, a selfish scramble, a disregard for the claims and the necessities of
others, a cruel indifference to the wants of the weaker, a willingness and an
eagerness, and indeed a determined struggle, to be well pastured and well
watered, however many there may be that are perishing for lack of food
and shelter? We may well dwell upon —
man such unrelieved selfishness is offensive; it is unsightly and
repellent in a high degree. How utterly unbeautiful must it, then, seem in
the sight of Him who is Love itself! Surely it is one of those things which He
is” of purer eyes than to behold ” (Habakkuk 1:13), which He “cannot look
upon” save with profound aversion.
THE AGENTS OF IT. It argues a pitiful inconsiderateness of other
people’s need, a guilty indifference to the wants and sufferings of other
souls. And such cruel carelessness as this is not only a great and sad evil in
itself, a sin and a wrong in itself; it is a hardening, mischief-working course.
It indurates the soul, and leads down to such an immoral condition that at
last a man’s own personal comfort and enlargement are everything to him,
and the wants and woes of his brethren and sisters nothing.
painfully and completely unlike the spirit and the conduct of Jesus Christ
than a selfish struggle for the first place, let who will go hungry and thirsty
and be driven away? Anything more diametrically opposed to the spirit
and contrary to the will of that “Son of man who came not to be
ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many”
(Mark 10:45), it would be difficult to discover.
fat cattle and the lean” (v. 20). The day will come when we shall give
account of the use we have made of our power. And if then it be found
that we have used our horns (v. 21) to thrust aside our brother from the
good he was seeking, in order that we might enjoy it; that we have not
used our power to help the needy, to strengthen the weak, to give drink
unto the thirsty, to raise them that are bowed down, we may expect the
language of condemnation from the Judge of quick and dead (see
23 “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them,
even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their
shepherd. 24 And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David
a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.” And I will set up one
Shepherd over them. Here, more than ever, we have an anticipation of our
Lord’s teaching in John 10:1-18. He claims to be the Fulfiller, as of the prediction
of Isaiah 40:11 and Jeremiah 23:1-3, so also of this. He, the “Son of David,” is the
David that inherits that among other promises. It has to be noted, however, that
Ezekiel’s words paint, less distinctly than those of the earlier prophets, the
picture of an individual Messianic king, and seem rather to point, as do
those of Zechariah 12:10 (I do not now discuss the date of that
prophecy), to a line of true rulers, each faithfully representing the ideal
David as the faithful Ruler, the true Shepherd of His people (Psalm
78:71; compare ch.37:24; 45:8-9).
The One Shepherd (v. 23)
In place of the many unworthy shepherds who have fattened themselves by
spoiling the flock of
Shepherd, reviving the royal line of David. The shepherd of
been a true protector of his people. He is to appear again in his great
Descendant. No doubt Ezekiel’s contemporary readers would look for a
restoration of the temporal monarchy, as Christ’s disciples looked for it
(Acts 1:6). But such a restoration was never accomplished. The prophecy is
fulfilled in a higher though an unexpected way by Christ as our good Shepherd.
Christ is the only person to whom these words can apply. Not only was He
of the family of David; He realized to the full the ideal that David set forth
in broken lights and failed to attain himself. He is the true David, the true
Shepherd-King. Thus amid the sorrows of the exile, the disconsolate
captives are cheered by a vision of the coming Christ, though as yet but
vaguely and dimly discerned. We, with fuller knowledge, can turn from our
disappointments and failures and find consolation in the Christ who has
come and who is ever in our midst. Perhaps if the old shepherds had not
been so unworthy, this wonderful prediction of the new Shepherd would
not have been made. The disappointments of worldly confidence drive us
to Christ. When earthly friends “fail or leave us,” we need the true Friend
who “sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). If Christian
ministers have been unworthy, CHRIST ABIDES FAITHFUL! Perhaps
too much confidence was given to the human instruments; then the shock
of discovering this to be misplaced may not be wholly hurtful; it may help
the Church to look away from men and TRUST ONLY IN CHRIST!
God sent Christ. It is God’s will that His scattered sheep should be
restored. That was stated earlier (see vs. 11-12). Now we see how it is to
be done. Christ is to be the new Shepherd who will seek and find the lost
sheep. He comes to us thus with all the authority of His Father. He is called
God’s “Servant” — a remarkable and unusual expression for the Messiah.
This reminds us of “the Servant of the Lord” in the latter part of Isaiah.
The name was recalled by Peter when preaching to the Jews (Acts 3:13).
Paul tells us that in His great humiliation Christ took on Him the
form of a servant (Philippians 2:7). This agrees with the whole spirit of
the life of our Lord, who came not to do His own will, but the will of Him
that sent Hi. (John 4:34). It implies a rebuke of the bad shepherds, who had
only pleased themselves and so neglected their Master’s interests. They were
too proud to consider themselves servants. But the great Son of David is
willing to be a Servant.
Ø He rules the flock. He is “set over” the sheep. The shepherd has
authority over the flock. They are required to follow him. He shuts
them up in the fold at night. Christ is King, as the Greater David.
He is appointed to rule His flock as the Shepherd and Bishop of
souls. If we would profit by His care we must obey His voice.
Ø He feeds the flock. They would starve in the wilderness. The shepherd
can lead them into the green pastures. He can supply them with winter
stores. Christ feeds His people with His own body and blood.
Ø He saves the flock. Though not stated in this verse, and perhaps not
directly following from the preceding verses, this is very prominent in
our Lord’s own description of His work. By the sacrifice of His own
life He saves His sheep (John 10:15). The favorite picture of the
Christians, on the walls of the catacombs at
is perhaps the choicest of all representations of Christ — viz.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD!.
A Pastor and a Prince (vs. 23-24)
Christians cannot fail to recognize the Messianic reference of this portion
of prophecy. The language employed not only exactly depicts Him who is
“Immanuel, God with us” (Matthew 1:23), it is so exalted that it is not
possible to refer it to any inferior being, to any under-shepherd of the flock,
any overseer and ruler in the Church subject to human infirmities and failings.
“one Shepherd,” God’s “servant David,” who can this be but Christ? For
He is the Head of the new humanity, who has made both one. “There shall
be one flock and one Shepherd” (John 10:16). This is no other than the
one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 2:5)
people are a purchased possession; He laid down His life for the sheep. Thus
He proved His love; thus He accomplished the gracious purposes of His
Father; thus He effected the deliverance of His ransomed ones from the
power of the enemy. All that the Savior does for His people is
comprehended in and follows from His identification of Himself with
them in His incarnation and sacrifice.
servant is appointed to be, not only the pastor, but the prince, of the
redeemed. His rule is marked by justice and equity, and at the same time by
benignity and compassion. He is the Prince of righteousness and the Prince
of peace. HIS DOMINION SHALL BE UNIVERSAL — “from sea to sea,
and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” HIS DOMINION SHALL
BE IMPERISHABLE — from one generation to another, “and of the
increase of his government there shall be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7)
of his flock to accept with gratitude his pastoral provision and care; and to
submit with cheerfulness to his just and gracious rule.
25 “And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the
evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in
the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.” I will make with them a covenant
of peace. The whole verse is an echo of Leviticus 26:6, in part also of Hosea 2:20
[English version, v. 18]. The words are less definite as to the nature of the
covenant than those of Jeremiah 31:31, but probably the same thought
underlies both. Sins are pardoned, the capacity for righteousness,
righteousness itself, are given. In bright contrast with the picture of a
country haunted by the lion, the jackal, and the wolf — the “evil beasts” of
ch.14:15 — so that no man could pass through without risk, we
have that of a land from which such evil boasts have been cleared out, so
that men may sleep safely even in the wilderness and the woods. The
language, however, is figurative rather than literal. As the “sheep” are the
people of the true
enemies, Chaldeans, Edomites, Philistines, and others, that had before
made havoc of them.
A Covenant of Peace (v.25)
between two parties. But in the case of covenants between God and man
this agreement is not arrived at after the fashion of human bargaining, in
which the two who are concerned meet on equal terms. The covenant is
made by God and offered to man, by whom it has to be accepted in order
that it may take effect. ‘We meet with several successive covenants — with
Noah, with Abraham, with
promises a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31). A similar idea is here
presented by Ezekiel. The old arrangement has broken down. For a time,
the people of God are outlawed exiles, cut off from their ancient privileges,
with little hope for the future. Now they are assured that God will not
forsake them. It is impossible to renew the old covenant; but a new one
shall be granted. God now approaches us in the gospel with that new
covenant which Christ said was given in His blood (Luke 22:20). It was
given to the world in the work of Christ. But it is ratified afresh with every
soul that accepts its conditions — viz., repentance and faith in the Lord
Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19, 26). All who thus enter into it enjoy the
privileges of God’s covenant mercies — mercies promised and assured to
covenant of peace. Every covenant is intended to be of this character. It is
to prevent misunderstandings, to define mutual relations, to harmonize
reciprocal actions. It is, in fact, a sort of treaty; and treaties, as long as they
are observed, are instruments of peace. But THE NEW COVENANT is
emphatically and in a very special manner one of peace.
Ø It endorses the restoration of peace between God and man. Sin is a
breach of the peace, pardon is the making of peace. The restored Jews
were brought into relations of peace with God. Christ reconciles us to
Ø It signalizes the establishment of peace between man and his
fellowman. Christ is our peace in regard to mutual human relations.
He breaks down “the middle wall of partition” between Jew and
Gentile (Ephesians 2:14). He brings peace on earth (Luke 2:14).
Ø It is the outward evidence of internal peace. CHRIST GIVES
PEACE to the soul. The covenant assures His people that this
peace is sound and solid (John 14:27).
and the people are to dwell safely in the open pastures and even sleep in
the woods without danger. The departure of man is followed by an
incursion of wild beasts. Lions came into the land when it was much
depopulated by the Captivity. Then it would only be safe for people to live
in close communities. At the present day we never see in
scattered farmhouses and cottages that give so much picturesqueness to
safe condition of the country which would admit the manner of living
described in our text. A similar condition spiritually is brought about under
the new covenant of Christ. The wild beasts of haunting sins and prowling
temptations are driven away. It is possible to enjoy a sense of freedom and
security when under the protection of Christ. To plant one’s homestead in
the midst of the pasturage, to be able to sleep out in the woods in the
summertime when at work far from home, would mean much comfort and
happiness in a safe and settled community. Such a condition is typical of
the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and though certainly it is not yet fully
enjoyed, IT WILL BE when THE REIGN OF CHRIST IS PERFECTLY
26 “And I will make them and the places round about my hill a
blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season;
there shall be showers of blessing.” Round about my hill. Ezekiel’s thoughts,
like those of Micah 4:1 and Isaiah 2:2, cluster round the hill of Zion, the
the prophet saw it here, and still more in the closing vision of his book
(ch. 47:12), there were, outwardly as well as spiritually, to be showers of
blessing (the phrase is peculiar to Ezekiel), and the land should yield its fruits.
(These words have made a great impression on Christianity because as a
kid, I remember the hymn “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing” – CY – 2014)
Showers of Blessing (v. 26)
The grateful rain in a semi-tropical country, that brings fruitfulness to the
earth and refreshment to man and beast, is suggestive of the Divine grace
that comes on parched and weary souls.
deadness when any Church or soul can be satisfied to continue in the dull
routine of formal service without receiving any refreshing Divine grace.
The first awakening from such a condition of torpor must result in a great
thirst of spirit. The need is indeed such that all might well feel it, viz.:
Ø Individual souls. Each soul needs a blessing. It is sad to be on the
margin of a shower, perhaps to receive some of the dust that
precedes it, yet to have no droppings of its refreshing water.
Ø Active servants of God. The preacher, the missionary, the Sunday
School teacher, the Christian worker in all kinds of service, need,
greatly need, showers of blessing
o in their own hearts, to strengthen and cheer, to stimulate and
o in their work.
Ø The Church. Deadness seizes the Church without a Divine blessing.
Worldliness, formalism, narrowness, selfishness, then degrade and
corrupt it. The Church sadly needs a Divine benediction.
The world. ALL MEN need WHAT FEW MEN SEEK — THE
GRACE AND AID OF GOD! The old weary earth thirsts and
pines unconsciously for a new Pentecost.
Ø Their source. This is above us. Showers fall from the clouds that sail
far over our heads. We must look up for the blessing. Men put too
much trust in the earth. The most fertile land, without rain, would
needs grace from above. Paul plants, Apollos waters, and God gives
the increase (I Corinthians 3:6).
Ø Their descent. The showers are formed in the clouds, but they do not
remain there. It is disappointing to see black clouds gather in a season
of drought, and then pass away without shedding a drop of rain.
Showers are descending waters. Blessings are not only promised
and retained in the treasury of heaven; they come down and water
take long for men with watering-cart and hose to distribute the moisture
that is spread over a wide area in an hour by one summer shower. (Let us
ponder that! I saw God’s kindness on the way home this afternoon in
the form of rain and He sends it on everybody – Christian and non-christian.
Matthew 5:45 – CY – 2014). God blesses richly and abundantly. HIS
GRACE IS WIDESPREAD! Every root of grass in the meadow comes
in for a share of the shower; every leaf in the forest is cleansed and refreshed.
Moreover, the result is done with the utmost gentleness. It is a shower, not a
flood. “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass” (Psalm 72:6).
It is not always raining.
Showers alternate with sunshine in our April weather. There are
seasons of special blessing. It may not be well for us to be always
receiving the most stimulating kind of Divine grace. Nor is it possible
for us to be perpetually cheered. Yet we can and should pray for
blessing, and hail the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand as the
promise of coming showers. (I Kings 18:44)
FRUITFULNESS. How fair and fresh the earth looks after a spring
shower! Then “the dainty flowers lift up their heads,” the grass shines in its
greenest hues, and the very ground is fragrant. The world, the Church, the
soul of man, will wear a new beauty and gladness, and bring forth fruit to
the glory of God, when heavenly showers of blessing have been received.
Well may we pray for them with more than Elijah’s earnestness!
The Promise of Blessing (v. 26)
By general consent this promise is referred to the time of the new covenant,
to the coming of Christ for man’s salvation, and the outpouring of the
Holy Spirit upon the Church.
earth, and turns barrenness into fruitfulness, so the provision of Divine
grace transforms this humanity from
a wilderness of sin into a
Ø The need of such blessing is apparent from the spiritual barrenness
which prevails where it is not bestowed.
Ø The source of such blessing is implied in this language; for as the
showers come from the clouds of the sky, so the Spirit descends
from the presence, the heaven of God.
Ø The time of such blessing is indicated as appointed by supreme
wisdom; the shower comes “in its season,” and the promise of the
Father was given in the Father’s good time.
Ø The abundance of such blessing. God’s spiritual favors come to His
people, not in drops, but in showers, such as are fitted to refresh the
parched and thirsty land.
Ø The effects of such blessing are life and fertility. The wilderness and
the solitary place are made glad, and the desert rejoices and blossoms
as the rose. (Isaiah 35:1) Spiritual growth and fruit are the blessed
result of showers of Divine mercy.
be understood the
vivifies by the dews and showers of His pity and loving-kindness. The
Church, because the object of Divine favor and THE DEPOSITORY
OF DIVINE TRUTH AND POWER becomes and remains the agent
of untold benefits to the world around. It receives blessing from heaven;
it communicates blessing to earth. The heaven above is never as brass
intercepting and restraining blessing; it is as the clouds distilling and
diffusing blessing. And the rills are never dry which convey the blessing
of God from the Church to fertilize a thirsty and barren world.
27 “And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall
yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall
know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their
yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served
themselves of them. 28 And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen,
neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely,
and none shall make them afraid.” When I have broken the bands of their yoke.
The underlying meaning of the figurative language of v. 25 is now utterly
The “yoke shall be broken.” They shall no more be a prey to the heathen.
None shall make them afraid.
The Peace and Welfare of the Church (vs. 27-28)
So much of this book of prophecy is occupied with denunciation and with
pictures of destruction and desolation, that a passage like this is grateful
and welcome, as a relief and contrast to much of what has gone before.
The-prophet was evidently inspired to look into the far future, and to see
visions of happiness and of glory which exalted and delighted his spirit. He
was taught that the God of infinite compassion has counsels of salvation
for sinful men, and plans of felicity for the ransomed Church. Some of the
elements of blessedness, assured by God’s faithfulness and mercy to His
people, are pictured in these beautiful and encouraging verses.
MERCY AND LOVING-KINDNESS. This is figuratively represented by
the promise, “The tree of the field shall yield its fruit, and the earth shall
yield her increase.” The Church is a garden, a vineyard, a forest; when it
flourishes, it puts forth signs of vigorous life, and it is fruitful abundantly.
The vitality of the Church expresses itself:
Ø in its praises, thankgivings, and prayers,
Ø in its unity and brotherly love,
Ø in its deeds of justice and purity,
Ø in its benevolent and self-denying efforts for the good of the world.
INTERPOSITION OF GOD’S MIGHT. The Lord “broke the bars of their
yoke, and delivered them out of the hands of those who made bondmen of
them.” “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (II Corinthians 3:17).
It is His office to set God’s people free from thraldom to error and to sin, and
to make them God’s freedmen, to introduce them into the glorious liberty of
the sons of God. The promise must have had a special significance and
sweetness for those who, like Ezekiel and his companions, were captives and
exiles in a foreign land, and subject to the authority of strangers. Its spiritual
meaning is comprehended and appreciated by all Christ’s ransomed ones
who are set free, His banished ones for whose return He has devised
effectual means. (II Samuel 14;13)
state of society than our own, the literal meaning of the promise must have
been peculiarly welcome: “They shall no more be a prey to the heathen,
neither shall the beasts of the field devour them; but they shall dwell
securely, and none shall make them afraid.” The Church of Christ is secure
as the fold of God’s flock, the fortress of God’s warriors, the home of
God’s children. The powers of earth and of hell are strong, but the power
of Heaven is mightier (“Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the
world.” - I John 4;4), and this power is pledged for the guardianship and
safety of the people of Christ. The power of Divine providence controls all
outward events. The power of the Divine Spirit within checks every rising
fear. “Fear not,” says the Almighty Guardian and Helper, “fear not: I am
29 “And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no
more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of
the heathen any more. 30 Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God
am with them, and
that they, even the house of
the Lord GOD.” A plant of renown. The words at first suggest the thought
that Ezekiel was reproducing the ideal picture of the “branch,” the “root,”
the “stem,” the “plant.” of Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 6:12.
Here, however, the word is collective, and is translated “plantation”
in ch.17:7, “planting” in Micah 1:6; Isaiah 60:21; 61:3. It can hardly be taken
as speaking of more than the general fertility of the land. The rendering of the
Septuagint, “a plant of peace,” obviously implies a different reading (shalom
instead of shem), and this Cornill has adopted in his text. So taken, the words
naturally lead on to what follows — the promise that men should no more be
consumed with hunger.
Ø It is planted by God. A plantation is not a wild, primeval forest. It is a
wood the trees of which have been carefully selected and set in the
soil by the hands of men. God plants His people.
o He originates the life of the soul.
o He determines the position and sphere of individual activity.
o He calls men into His Church.
Ø It is a community. A plantation is not a single tree, nor is it the
scattering of a few separate trees over the fields. It is a collection of
plants. “God setteth the solitary in families” (Psalm 68:6). He has
ordained domestic and social life. Christ founded the Church.
Brotherly fellowship is a Divine ordinance.
Ø It is carefully tended. The woodman visits the plantation, removing
dead boughs, keeping the soil clean, destroying dangerous parasitic
growths, etc. God does not leave His people alone. (“What could
have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?”
(Isaiah 5:4) They are not like the neglected tropical forest, in which
the wreck of the hurricane lies undisturbed and dead, and living
trees are matted together with gigantic creepers and tangled with
undergrowth; they are like a well-trimmed plantation.
Ø It is expected to grow. A plantation in poor soil on a bleak hillside
may be slow to thrive, and one on a hot sandy plain may even perish
in drought. But healthy well-placed plants should grow from saplings
till they become great trees.
Ø There is renown in the planting of it. It is customary for a member of
the royal family who visits a country place to be asked to plant a tree.
If the request is complied with, the young tree is watched with peculiar
care and ever after pointed out with interest. It is a plant of renown.
Not only has the Church been planted by God; it has been planted at
the cost of the sacrifice of Christ. This plantation has been watered
with the blood of Christ. It has the renown of the great sacrifice
of DIVINE LOVE CONSUMATED ON
Ø There is renown in the history of it. There are trees of historic interest.
Such was the oak of Mamre, sacred to the memory of Abraham.
Englishmen have found a romantic interest in King Charles’s oak.
plantation of the Church has a very mixed history. The greatest trees are
not always the most fruitful, and the greatest names in ecclesiastical
history are not always those that deserve the highest honor. The public
and official history of the Church is disgraced with many a deed of
un-Christlike and worldly conduct. But the plantation as a whole, the
general body of Christians, the quiet town and country congregations,
have done a work of charity-enlightening, comforting, and saving —
IN ALL AGES OF CHRISTENDOM! Here, rather than in her calendar
of saints, the true renown of the Church is to be found, and this renown
is the glory of Christ, WHOSE BODY SHE IS; so that her members
must exclaim, “Not unto us, not unto us, BUT UNTO THY NAME
BE THE GLORY!” (Psalm 115:1)
Ø There is renown in the destiny of it. The Church has a great future
before it. It goes forward to realize a grand idea. It has to win such a
name as it dares not wear as yet. But even now, as the army shares the
renown of its captain, the Church is honored in its Head, to whom
God has given “a Name above every name. That at the name of
Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in
earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue shall
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The Presence of God (v. 30)
that He is everywhere on the desolate sea and the fair earth, in the high
heavens and the dark regions of death (Psalm 139.). Therefore if any would
desire to escape from His presence, this is impossible. How, then, can God
be said to be in an especial manner present with His people? Spiritual
presence is spiritual manifestation. God is more fully present where He
more completely manifests His power and grace.
Ø He is present in the hearts of His people. He dwells in the contrite
and humble spirit (Isaiah 57:15). The Christian’s body is a “temple
of the Holy Ghost” (I Corinthians 6:19). God comes into especially
close contact with those who are reconciled to Him, and who open
their hearts to receive His Spirit.
Ø He is present in the lives of His people. He shapes their lives with His
providential guidance, and watches over them with tender care,
warding off danger and supplying wants. Even when they forget Him
in the slumbers of the night and during the busy distractions of the day,
He neither sleeps nor neglects His people. (Psalm 121:4) Ever with
them to guide and help and save, as He was with
of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, God overshadows
and surrounds His people with His fostering presence.
which suggests these reflections is somewhat like a frequent expression in
the prophecies of Ezekiel. After denunciations of wrath and judgment
against the heathen nations, the conclusion repeatedly arrived at is, “And
they shall know that I am the Lord” (e.g. ch.30:25 – I recommend –
Ezekiel – God’s Use of the Word Know – this web site – CY – 2014).
In these cases the awful action of God in His wrath is to bring home to
the heathen the fact of His existence and supremacy; but it is not said that
they will know that God is with them. To
WILL KNOW THAT GOD IS PRESENT! This further knowledge belongs
to Christians. They are not merely theists, who believe in the existence of God;
they know His actual, living presence. It is not suggested that this knowledge
is to be obtained by direct, mystical intuition; it is rather suggested that it is
gathered from the experience of God’s goodness. Hagar recognized the
presence of God when the angel addressed her (Genesis 16:13). Jacob
perceived it on awakening from his dream (Ibid. ch. 28:16). The later Jews
were to see it in their restoration from the Captivity. We are to acknowledge
it in the experience of the Christian redemption. In this Christ will manifest
Himself to us as He does not unto the world (John 14:21-22).
BY THAT OF HIS OWNERSHIP OF HIS PEOPLE. “And that they, even
the house of
Owner. He comes to them to claim them. He visits His inheritance to take
possession of it. (I recommend Deuteronomy ch 32 v 9 – God’s Inheritance
by Arthur Pink – this website – CY – 2014). When we perceive that God
is with us (Matthew 1:23), we have to go further and acknowledge His
relationship to us. It is much to acknowledge that we do not belong to
ourselves, that we are God’s possession, BOUGHT WITH A GREAT
PRICE (I Corinthians 6:20) and valued by Him as precious property is
valued by its owner.
31 “And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your
God, saith the Lord GOD.” And ye my flock. The great utterance, we might
call it the “ode of the shepherds,” comes round to the point from which its
second portion started (v. 11). All blessings were summed up in the thought that,
behind every representative of the Father’s care, the ideal David and His
house, there was the eternal relationship between Jehovah and His people,
even that of the Shepherd and His sheep.
God’s Flock (v. 31)
sheep are restored. They no longer roam at large over the mountains. They
are gathered together. Man is naturally gregarious. Religion should deepen
this characteristic by destroying selfishness and quickening the great social
instinct, love. Thus Christ founded the Church idea. He recognized that He
had many sheep that were not of the fold of
community of disciples, and He prayed that they might all become one
flock, even if they might not all be gathered into one fold and “there
shall be one fold and one shepherd” (John 10:16). It may be
impossible to restore the external unity of Christendom. At all events, this
grand consummation seems at present to be far off, and some of those who
profess to desire it most fervently do their worst to postpone it by their
narrowness, bigotry, and serf-assertion. Certainly, if the dream is ever
realized, it will not be by all sections of Christendom succumbing to the
views and practices of any one party, but by a general agreement within
large lines of liberty and love. Meanwhile, though we may not have one
fold, WE SHOULD BE ONE FLOCK! There should be a spirit of
brotherhood among all Christians. The boundaries of folds do not convert
sheep into wolves. The spiritual unity of Christendom may be accomplished
in the spirit of charity and sympathy taking possession of the hearts of all
care of a shepherd. God has “set up one Shepherd over” His flock (v. 23)
— Christ, who cares for His sheep to the extent of GIVING HIS LIFE
FOR THEM! The flock of Christ is variously tended.
Ø It is fed. God has not left His people in the wilderness, or, if they
must traverse that barren region, He sends heavenly manna and
gives water from the rock.
Ø It is sheltered. The shepherd watches over the flock by night and
drives off beasts of prey. Christ guards His people from harm and
Ø It is led. The shepherd leads his sheep by the still waters, and
home to their fold. God led His people
(Psalm 77:20), till they had passed all the perils of the forty years’
wandering, crossed the
Land. Christ leads His people through life safely on towards the
Ø They should follow the Shepherd. Christianity is walking in the
Footsteps of Christ (John 12:26; I Peter 2:21). We cannot expect
the grace of Christ if we wander from Him.
Ø The flock is the property of its Owner; it exists for his advantage. It is
not to be supposed that we are to receive countless blessings and
render no return in obedience. The supreme end of the Church is the
glory of God, though this is attained in conjunction with its own
highest welfare. (
life was to glorify God! We have lost our way somewhere and it
is showing as
Ø The sheep are foolish, weak, helpless creatures. The Shepherd is far
greater than they. He deserves to be locked up to with trust, and
followed obediently. In our ignorance, folly, and weakness we should
trust and obey OUR GOOD SHEPHERD, who is wiser and stronger
than we, and whose will is supreme over our lives.
The Golden Age of Peace (vs. 23-31)
Predictions of Divine retribution, added to bitter experience of misfortune,
had well-nigh filled the souls of the people with despair. And despair is a
critical condition for man. It may lead to self-abandonment, to the wildest
excesses of vice and devilry. Will God make no interposition on their
behalf? Must their only prospect be midnight, unrelieved by a single star?
No! over the black cloud God again flings the bow of gracious promise.
Black midnight shall be followed by a roseate dawn. The old order shall
give place to a new. A nobler kingdom shall be set up.
is not to be accepted literally, but symbolically. The people could not
understand the magnificent purpose of God by any other language. As
God stoops to our infantile state by describing heaven to us in language
borrowed from earth, so did He portray the era of Messiah’s reign by
language borrowed from the most prosperous events in their past career.
Despite all his failings, David had been their most illustrious sovereign.
His reign had brought them prosperity and honor and great enlargement.
They shall have another David — a better David. In reality, as well as in
name, He shall be the “Beloved,” even “the Man after God’s own heart.”
God shall make the appointment, therefore questions touching its wisdom
May well be silenced. THE KING OF KINGS IS GOD, therefore the
New Monarch shall be a true Shepherd, viz. one who will care more for
The flock than for Himself. The spirit of His reign shall be love.
covenant of peace.” For centuries past they had tasted the horrors and the
misery of war. Civil strife and foreign invasion had made the beauteous
land a desolation. War between man and man had been incessant, because
the whole nation was at war with God. The influence, the virtue, the spirit
of the new King were designed to spread until they had permeated the
whole nation. (“The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the
waters cover the sea” - Isaiah 11:9). Love to God would produce
benevolence to each other. Further, it was an act of incomparable
condescension on the part of God to make such a covenant with men,
particularly with such rebellious men. For a covenant is a contract
which brings obligation on both parties entering into it and which
deprives them of a portion of their liberty. So, in amazing kindness to men,
and that He may lift them up, God freely brings Himself under obligation,
and gives to undeserving men a right they did not before possess. This
gracious covenant embraced the most precious interests of the true
and was appointed as a root of prosperity and joy. And the conclusion of
the covenant was guaranteed. “I,” said God, “I will make” it. Hence it
included the solution of men’s opposition. It deals with men in their internal
nature as well as in their outward conduct. Divine love will gradually melt
all hostility, and will fertilize human nature with heavenly grace. “They
shall be my people.”
effects are specified.
Ø Civic concord. “I will cause the evil beasts to cease.” By evil beasts
we may properly understand unprincipled and oppressive men. A
gracious influence shall touch and remodel the characters of men.
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down
with the kid” (Isaiah 11:6). Instead of an instinct to injure, there
shall be an instinct to benefit each other.
Ø Personal security. “They shall dwell safely even in the wilderness, and
sleep in the woods.” The security shall be perfect. The former haunts of
robbers shall become the abodes of peace. The very deserts shall resound
with the merry laughter of children and with the songs of honest swains.
Ø Agricultural fertility. “The tree of the field shall yield its fruit, and the
land shall yield her increase.” Often in the olden time they sowed a
bushel and reaped a peck; but this resulted from God’s displeasure.
Now crops shall be prolific. The barren hills shall smile with the olive
and the vine. The valleys shall be robed with russet corn. The table
of every cottager shall be laden with plenty.
Ø Seasonable communications of good. “I will cause the shower to
come down in its season.” As in most lands rain is essential to
fertility, so in Messiah’s kingdom the descent of spiritual influence
is essential to a fruitful piety. The windows of heaven shall in due
season open, and plentifully irrigate the souls of suppliants. Out of
the inexhaustible storehouse a gracious supply shall, come.
Ø Unprecedented, blessing shall be given. “I will raise up for them a
plantation of renown.” This seems to indicate some useful product
of a most beneficent kind — “a plantation” remarkable, and that
shall bring them high renown. (A sort of spiritual “I Have a Dream”
speech – CY – 2014). Without question, gifts and graces
have been bestowed upon men in this gospel age unheard of in
former years; AND RICHER DONATIONS OF GRACE ARE
YET IN STORE!
Ø Honor. For long and dreary centuries they had borne the reproach
of the heathen. They had been the tools of rival kings — the
laughing-stock of the Gentiles. Now this shall be reversed. In
proportion to the depth of their dishonor shall be the height of
their exaltation. Not false and meretricious honor shall they have,
but that true honor which is the fruit of righteousness.
Ø Intimate friendship with God. Their knowledge of God shall be deep
and experimental. They shall have something better than theoretical
and speculative knowledge. They shall have the full assurance that
GOD IS AMONG THEM! They shall feel that God has a
proprietorship in them, and that they have a proprietorship in God.
God is their God. “The house of
Lord God.” This is supreme joy, the beginning of heaven, when
GOD DWELLS IN US AND WE IN GOD! The union is organic,
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