Ezekiel 34



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

of vs. 23-24, as the first stage in the restoration of Israel which is beginning to open

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 Israel, prophesy,

and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds;

Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves!  Should

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

Israel and of mankind. No shepherd was worthy of his name who did not

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

restored Israel (ch. 45:8-10).



Shepherds Denounced (vs. 1-10)


  • THEIR RESPONSIBILITY. Ezekiel now turns from the people to their

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 Israel’s shepherds. Note the

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

especially responsible.




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      Gods 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.


  • THEIR CONDUCT. This is very graphically and (after Ezekiel’s

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

Israel who claimed to be the spiritual pastors of the people. These,

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.


  • THEIR CONDEMNATION. That such flagrant neglect, of duty could

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 psalmist of Israel only, but the lowest outcast, might

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 Israel, which was dominant in

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.


  • DRAWN TOWARDS THE NEGLECTED. It is the guilty neglect of

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 Zion and from all its sacred and hallowing influences are

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 us.


“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

this promise.


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:


Ø      The putting forth by the Church of Christ of all its redeeming energies.

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 Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited

places of the country.  14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the

high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold,

and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.

15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the

Lord GOD.”  On the mountains of Israel by the rivers. The picture of

the pleasant pasture-lands of Judah, almost, as it were, an expansion 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 OF ISRAEL!   The sheep

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)


  • THE SHEEP ARE LOST. Israel was scattered among the nations like

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.


Ø      They have gone into distant places. Israel was driven abroad locally;

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.


  • THEY ARE SOUGHT. The shepherds lost them; God seeks them.

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 Israel

(Matthew 15:24), and then all lost sheep. Christianity is a search for



  • THEY ARE FOUND. “I will bring them out from the peoples,” etc.

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



Ø      He brings the sheep home. Israel is restored to her own land. Souls are

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 IsraeL The

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

Judah, had been allowed to work their evil will upon the people. Of these

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

mountains of Israel, by the water-courses; I will feed them upon good

pasture, and on fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.”

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)


  • APPLICATION. These representations of Divine pity and tenderness are

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.”

18Seemeth 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

are separated from the gentle, helpless sheep. Israel was not to be restored

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

(Matthew 13:48).



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

Israel, that were disturbing and distressing the land. It is not only those

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 Israel; but

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 —


  • ITS UNLOVELINESS. Even to the eye of the loving and tenderhearted

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.


  • ITS UTTER UN-CHRISTLIKENESS. Can anything be more

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.


  • ITS CONDEMNATION AND ITS DOOM. “I will judge between the

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

Matthew 25:41-46).


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 Israel, God will now give His people one good

Shepherd, reviving the royal line of David. The shepherd of Bethlehem had

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.


  • THE PERSON OF THE SHEPHERD. “My servant David.” Jesus

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

persecuted early Christians, on the walls of the catacombs at Rome,

is perhaps the choicest of all representations of Christ — viz.





                           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)


  • APPLICATION. These representations of Christ summon all the members

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 Israel, so the evil beasts must, at least, include the

enemies, Chaldeans, Edomites, Philistines, and others, that had before

made havoc of them.



A Covenant of Peace (v.25)


  • THE MAKING OF THE COVENANT. A covenant is an agreement

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

Adam, with Noah, with Abraham, with Israel in the Law. Jeremiah

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

God’s people.


  • THE CHARACTER OF THE COVENANT. It is essentially a

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).


  • THE FRUITS OF THE COVENANT. The evil beasts are to depart

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 Palestine those

scattered farmhouses and cottages that give so much picturesqueness to

rural England. The people all live in villages or towns. That must be a very

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




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

mountain of Jehovah, as the center of the restored Israel. In that land, as

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.


  • SHOWERS OF BLESSING ARE NEEDED. It is a sign of miserable

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.



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

be a Sahara Desert.  The most capable and energetic human work

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

the earth.



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. Palestine had its former and its latter rain.

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.


  • FERTILIZING SHOWERS OF BLESSING. As the rain waters the

earth, and turns barrenness into fruitfulness, so the provision of Divine

grace transforms this humanity from a wilderness of sin into a Paradise

of God.


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.


  • ABIDING SCENES OF BENEDICTION. By the “hill” of God must

be understood the Church of God, which He ever visits, refreshes, and

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

explained. Israel is to be delivered from its Chaldean and other oppressors.

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

with you!”


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 Israel, are my people, saith

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.



A Plantation of Renown (v. 29)


Restored Israel is to be a plantation of renown. The Israel of God, the

Church of Christ, may be considered as of the same character.




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



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.

Sherwood Forest is famous for Robin Hood and his merry men. The

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.”

(Philippians 2:9-11)



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 Israel in the pillar

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 Israel, however, this new thing

is asserted. Israel will not merely know that God is the eternal Lord; SHE

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).




the house of Israel, are my people.” God is present with His people as their

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)


Israel was formerly God’s flock. Christians are now God’s flock.



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 Israel, or of His first

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



  • CHRISTIANS ARE TENDED AS A FLOCK. The flock is under the

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

Ultimately home to their fold. God led His people Israel “like a flock”

(Psalm 77:20), till they had passed all the perils of the forty years’

wandering, crossed the Jordan, and taken possession of the Promised

Land. Christ leads His people through life safely on towards the

heavenly Canaan.




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.  (America was settled by Puritans whose goal in

life was to glorify God!  We have lost our way somewhere and it

is showing as America is bursting at the seams! – CY -2014)


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.


  • A NEW KING. He is described as “my servant David.” This description

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 Israel,

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.”


  • A NEW ERA OF PROSPERITY. A long catalogue of beneficial

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




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 Israel are my people, saith the

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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