Saturday, August 25, 2012

Meeting Our Deepest Need

We are in the midst of studying “Justice Promise”. The lessons have been a study of part of Old Testament texts which prophesy and speak to God’s judgments and hope for His people. In the first lesson of the unit we reviewed Psalm 146, a psalm of praise which lists many attributes of God and reason for hope despite our problems. The prophetic period began with Samuel during the United Kingdom of Israel. However the writing prophets appeared when the kingdom divided. We began a study of the Major Prophets. They are considered major as versus Minor Prophets (i.e. Amos, Hosea, etc.) simply because their written books were longer. The first major prophet studied was Isaiah as is recorded in Isa 9:2-7. We next studied the major prophet Jeremiah, as recorded in Jer 23:1-6; 33:14-18. Isaiah and Jeremiah were writing prophets. The purpose of all the prophets was to make the people aware of their sin and bring them back to God Almighty. Today we shall study another major prophet, Ezekiel, as recorded in Ezek 34:23-31.

In the beginning of chapter 34, Ezekiel is commanded by the Lord to prophesy against the shepherds of His sheep. These under shepherds were the kings, priests, Levites, Sanhedrin, or whoever was in charge. They had eaten of the fat of the land and clothed themselves well, but they had given nothing to the sheep. Instead they had left the sheep weakened and diseased, so that the sheep were easy prey for the beasts of the field and scattered. God is the Shepherd who will collect the sheep from wherever they have been scattered. He will make sure His sheep eat and rest in good pasture. The Lord is against the actions of the under shepherds and they will pay for not carrying out the duties He had given them charge. Ezek 34:1-16

Ezekiel changed his focus slightly to advise God’s flock that He judges among the cattle and between the rams and he-goats, also. One section of the flock could not bully another section of the flock to eat of the good pasture and drink of the deep waters while treading on the remaining pasture and making the water foul with their feet for the leaner flock to partake. It seemed a small thing to them, but God does not like “ugly” among His flock. Remember God is about love. He will judge even between the fat cattle and the lean cattle. The lean cattle will no longer be prey to the fat cattle. Ezek 34:17-22

God intends to meet our deepest need. What is that need? ‘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. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.’ Ezek 34:23-24 The kings of Israel and Judah were bad shepherds; they were self-serving and neglected the needs of the people. After God brings all his sheep together in one flock from the uttermost sections of the earth wherever they have been scattered, He will set up One Shepherd over them who will feed them, nourish them, provide them water, and protect them both physically and spiritually. One Shepherd who will rule over an undivided people, the distinctions between Judah and Israel will be done away. This Shepherd will act according to God’s will and unselfishly. The prophesied Shepherd is of the lineage of David who was a fit type of king and faithful unto God. Yet, Davis was not perfect. Christ, the Messiah is full perfection. God speaks of hope in the coming of the Messiah and reminds His sheep that He is the LORD their God and will restore order and everything taken from them. The sheep will see God has not forsaken them, even though they are currently in Babylonian bondage in their darkest hour of despair.

‘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. 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. 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.’ Ezek 34:25-27 When God restores order and justice under the Davidic ruler (the Messiah), there will be no more oppression, enslavement, or hunger. The land would have peace and be rid of wild beasts. Every place would be safe and secure. The sheep will be able to sleep in the woods. David had conquered Zion and made it his home. This is the hill referred to in verse 26. Mount Zion in Jerusalem had been destroyed when the Babylonians invaded Judah. The Temple was ransacked and burned to the ground. God gives them hope through His prophet Ezekiel. He lets them know there will be a blessing around His holy hill again. How would He bless? He would reverse the effects of some of the past. Send rain to water their plants and crops. They would not have to go to neighboring countries for food during times of drought. He would make sure the trees would yield fruit in great abundance. If any nation looked at the wealth and increase they were experiencing in their land, the sheep would not have to worry. God would keep them safe and secure. Every nation would once again know that He had delivered them out of bondage and He was the LORD their God.

‘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. 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.’ Ezek 34:28-29 Once more the prophet Ezekiel alludes to the sheep as “prey”. They were helpless prey to the heathen when they were subjected to the wicked rule of the undersheperds. Now God shall raise up a “plant of renown” or a place for the Jews to return and plant themselves to the land in such a way that will announce God’s glory (renown). They will no more be consumed with hunger in the land.

‘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. And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.’ Ezek 34:30-31 God gives his flock great hope to be faithful in Him. He promises one Shepherd to oversee all their needs. He promises to unite the kingdom and grant them safety and security from the ravaging beasts at a time of their lowest despair. He reestablishes His covenant of peace and reminds His people He had never left them. He promises showers of blessings around his holy hill. The fruit and crop shall be in abundant supply to His glory. God does these things because He is God, and the sheep are His and of His pasture. His role is NOT interchangeable, as the wicked under shepherds found.

In summary, God has raised up His Son, Jesus Christ for all who believe, the Christian Church. Christ is their Shepherd and God is His Father. He will continue to root out all ravenous beasts, false preachers, teachers, etc. who harm his children. The Lord will continue to cause showers to come down in due season. We will continue to experience the influence of the Holy Spirit and blessings of life, light, joy, peace, and power. Isn’t God good? Bless His Name!

Written by Deborah C Davis

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