The LORD God, Yahweh,
pictures Himself as the Shepherd of His people in
the Old Testament. These great Messianic analogies
look forward to the faithful and true Shepherd of
Israel who will be like His father David. However,
the Good Shepherd gave His life for the sheep.
FALSE SHEPHERDS OF
This is yet another
passage in the Hebrew prophets that speak of the
evil shepherds of Israel and Judah. "Shepherds"
often referred to kings, priests and prophets who
had oversight of the affairs of the Jewish nation.
They were men of authority (Isaiah 44:28; Jeremiah
2:8; 10:21; 23:1-6; 25:34-38; Micah 5:4-5; Zechariah
11:4-17). Our word "pastor" is the Latin for
With few exceptions the
shepherds in Ezekiel's day were evil. Ezekiel
writes: "Then the word of the Lord came to me
saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds
of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds,
‘Thus says the Lord God, "Woe, shepherds of Israel
who have been feeding themselves! Should not the
shepherds feed the flock?" (Ezekiel 34:1-2).
It was a familiar refrain
during the last days of the southern kingdom of
Judah. The evil shepherds Ezekiel is referring to
were Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.
Their self–interests, controlled them. Ezekiel's
description of their selfishness is vivid in verses
1-10. After Josiah all of the kings were corrupt in
Judah and they scattered the people.
It is against this
backdrop of evil shepherds that Ezekiel presents the
hope of the coming ideal Shepherd–King who will lead
His people under a new covenant. The LORD God will
lead the people back to the land, and they will be
converted and ruled by the Messiah (34:11-16, 23-24;
YAHWEH SEARCHES FOR
HIS SHEEP (34:11-19)
A familiar role of Yahweh
in the Old Testament is that of a shepherd over His
flock in contrast to the evil shepherds of Israel.
It is first found in Genesis 49:24, where He
describes Himself as "the Mighty One of Jacob, . . .
the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel." Ezekiel says
only Yahweh and His Messiah would be the "Shepherd"
of His people (v. 23).
The LORD God is
pictured as a Shepherd searching for His sheep.
This imagery is familiar
in the Old Testament. King David with poetic beauty
said, "The LORD is my shepherd" (Psalm 23:1). "Oh
give ear, Shepherd of Israel, Thou who dost lead
Joseph like a flock; Thou who art enthroned above
the cherubim, shine forth!" (80:1). The prophet
Isaiah in his great passage on comfort sees the LORD
God "Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His
arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His
bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes" (Isaiah
40:11). Jeremiah cried, "He who scattered Israel
will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd keeps
his flock" (31:10).
Fifteen times in Ezekiel
chapter 34 the LORD says, "My flock," or "My sheep."
They are His possession as a shepherd. "Behold, I
Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out"
(v, 11). This passage is a vivid description of the
Lord God pastoring His flock. He watches for His own
and seeks them out (v. 11). He cares for His
scattered flock and will deliver them from all the
places they have wandered (v. 12). "I will bring
them out from the peoples and gather them form the
countries and bring them to their own land; and I
will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the
streams, and in all the inhabited places of the
land" (v. 13). "I will feed My flock and I will lead
them to rest" (v. 15). Throughout this passage we
see a searching shepherd, seeking His lost sheep,
binding up the broken, strengthening the sick and
feeding them in a rich pasture.
In the above verses it is
noted that the Shepherd–King has a special
relationship with Yahweh. In verses 11-16 the
shepherd is Yahweh, however in vv. 23-24 the
shepherd is "my servant David." The pronouns "I" and
"my" are used forty-five times demonstrating "this
shepherd would be God in a personal form." The Good
Shepherd would later say, "I and the Father are one"
(John 10:30; cf. 17:21ff).
The true Shepherd–King
feeds His sheep (34:13, 26-27, 29). Jesus is the
Bread and the Water of Life (John 6:31-35; 4:10-14;
David wrote, "He makes me
lie down in green pastures." Here the LORD says, "I
will cause them to lie down." He gives perfect
security (34:11-16). Jesus gives perfect peace in
His pastures fair and meadow (John 14:27; 16:33;
20:19; 14:1; Colossians 3:15; Philippians 4:7).
There will be a day when He will reestablish His
people peacefully in their land (vv. 14-15;
Revelation 20:4-6). This Shepherd–King will rule
with righteousness (v. 16), and He will be a
righteous judge (2 Corinthians 5:10ff; 1 Corinthians
3:12-15; Revelation 20:11-15)
H. A. Ironside well said,
"He will seek after those that are lost, and will
bring back those that have been driven away; he will
bind up those that have been maimed, and will
strengthen those that were sick; but the
self-sufficient and the strong will be disappointed
in that day when He shepherds His sheep in
JESUS IS THE GOOD
SHEPHERD (34:20-25; JOHN 10:11).
Then I will set over them
one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed
them; he will feed them himself and be their
shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My
servant David will be prince among them; I the Lord
have spoken (vv. 23-24).
In contrast with the many
evil shepherds and the division of the kingdom into
the northern and southern kingdoms each having their
own kings, the LORD "will set over them one
shepherd, My servant David" (v. 23). This shepherd
will judge between the sheep and feed them and be a
The identity of the
Who is this shepherd? "My
servant, David . . . And I, the LORD will be their
God, and My servant David will be prince among them;
I the LORD, have spoken" (vv. 23-24). This coming
Shepherd will be known as "my servant David"
(37:22-26; 2 Samuel 7:16; Jeremiah 30:9; Isaiah
55:3; 40:10-11; Hosea 3:5). He will establish an
everlasting throne of David as Yahweh had promised.
This grand promise of the establishment of an
everlasting throne of David finds its fulfillment
only in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the
Messiah, the Son of the living God.
No doubt, Jesus had this
passage and other Old Testament shepherd imagery in
mind when He said, "I am the good shepherd; the good
shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. . . I am
the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own
know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the
Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep; And I
have other sheep which are not of this fold; I must
bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and
they shall become one flock with one Shepherd" (John
10:11, 14-16; cf. Luke 1:69; Acts 3:13, 26;
The True Shepherd
makes a new covenant with His flock (v. 25; 37:26)
The True and Good
Shepherd will make a "covenant of peace" with His
people (v. 25). Jeremiah had called this same
covenant the "new covenant" (Jeremiah 31:31). It is
an everlasting covenant" (Ezekiel 16:60). How
desperately sinful man needs peace with God, which
was lost in the fall. God will restore it in the
However, we don't have to
wait until then to experience inner peace. There is
no greater promise of assurance in God's word than
these words of the Good Shepherd as He comforts the
sheep of His pasture in John 10:24-30:
The Jews then gathered
around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will
You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell
us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and
you do not believe; the works that I do in My
Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not
believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep
hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never
perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.
My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than
all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the
Father’s hand. I and the Father are one."
Just like the prophet
Ezekiel said, Jesus judges the sheep and gives
assurance and comfort to His flock. He declared
God's Word very plainly. Those who reject Him are
not of His sheep. "My sheep are in the habit of
listening to My voice; and I know them, and they
follow Me." Have you come to an intimate love
relationship with Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd?
Here are six great
truths Jesus gives to every true believer:
"My sheep hear My voice"
(v. 27). They are in the habit of recognizing and
paying attention to His voice.
"I know them" (v. 27).
The Good Shepherd knows His own sheep.
"They follow Me" (v. 27).
That is the constant habit of the true sheep.
"I give eternal life to
them" (v. 28). This isn't a passing fad. The Good
shepherd loves His sheep and wants them to spent
eternity with Him.
"The shall never perish"
(v. 28). It is double negative in the original
language. They shall "not perish, never." They can
never perish because "no one shall snatch them out
of My hand." You can't jump out either, even if you
were stupid enough to do it, because the Father has
His hands around the hands of Jesus! "My Father, who
has given them to Me, is greater than all . . ." (v.
"No one is able to snatch
them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are
one" (vv. 29-30). Double security! Jesus holds us in
His hands and the Father holds Him in His hands!
(cf. Romans 8:38-39).
How great is our Savior!
Marvelous is His sovereign saving grace.
THE FUTURE REIGN OF
THE SHEPHERD–KING (37:24-38)
This new covenant of
everlasting peace anticipates events and promises
never realized in the first return of Israel from
Babylonian captivity. They never knew "peace" as
described in these passages. Israel returned to her
land and was dominated by Medo–Persia, Greece and
Rome until A.D. 70 when the Romans burned Jerusalem.
Either one must come to the conclusion that this
"covenant of peace" was an unrealistic hope that
never materialized or that a future event is in
God’s "covenant of peace"
looks forward to the blessings Israelwill experience
in the Millennium. This covenant will establish
Israel in her land permanently with David's greater
Son as her Shepherd–King. Later Ezekiel stated that
the covenant of peace would also involve the
rebuilding of God’s temple as a visible reminder of
His presence (37:26-28).
In chapter thirty-seven,
Ezekiel expands on his message in chapter 34. When
the Messiah came the first time not many in Israel
recognized Him for who He was, but there is a day
coming when He will make them one nation in the
land. God will restore Israel because of her unique
relationship to Him. Yahweh says, "One king will be
king for all of them; and they will no longer be two
nations, and they will no longer be divided into two
kingdoms. . . My servant David will be king over
them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they
will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes,
and observe them. . . David My servant shall be
their prince forever" (37:22-25). Now He tells us
that the "covenant of peace" will be "an everlasting
covenant with them" (v. 26). It is an everlasting
kingdom with an everlasting covenant and an
everlasting King. "David My servant shall be their
prince forever." Then He goes on to tell us we shall
worship the Shepherd–King forever. He is also our
God. He tells us He "will set My sanctuary in their
midst forever" (v. 26). "My dwelling place also will
be with them; and I will be their God, and they will
be My people. And the nations will know that I am
the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is
in their midst forever" (vv. 27-28). This is far
beyond Zerrubbabel and Herod's temples which was
consumed by Roman fire in AD 70. It did not stand
forever nor was it ever filled with the Shekinah
I don't think you can
take seriously these passages in Jeremiah and
Ezekiel without being reminded of the words of the
apostle Paul in Romans 11:25-29.
For I do not want you,
brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that
you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a
partial hardening has happened to Israel until the
fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all
Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "The
Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove
ungodliness from Jacob." "This is My covenant with
them, When I take away their sins." From the
standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your
sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they
are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the
gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
The promise made in
Ezekiel chapters 36-37 will take place in the future
when Israel is secure in her own land. This
regathering of Israel from “all nations” looks
beyond the first return from the Babylonian
captivity to the establishment of the messianic
Ezekiel looks forward to
the future work of God when He will bring about a
complete restoration of the nation Israel. The
righteous King who is the Messiah in 37:24-28 will
carry out the work of the Good Shepherd of 34:23-31.
One wonderful day the "Chief Shepherd" will appear
(1 Peter 5:4). Even so come, Lord Jesus.
"All God's dealings in
regard to Israel's future blessing will be in pure
grace; nothing will be on the ground of merit, for
they have merited only judgment" (Ironside). This is
also true of each of us. We merit only judgment
because of our sins. However, God in His rich
abundant and merciful grace reaches down to each of
us this day and offers abundant life.
Have you put your
personal trust in the Good Shepherd? He has come to
give you eternal life.
If you need help in
becoming a Christian here is A Free Gift for You.
34:1-25 Shepherds: True and False
Christ in the Old Testament