Think of great Scripture passages about the Great Shepherd and you’re likely to go immediately to Psalm 23, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Think on it just a bit more, and John 10 probably isn’t far behind as Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd.” But this morning I’m hovering over what I think is probably a lesser known, but just as great, passage about the Shepherd. Might I suggest we add Ezekiel 34 to the list? Where the great I AM identifies the shepherd of His sheep as the great I MYSELF.
Ezekiel 34:1-24 begins with a prophecy against the many flaky shepherds of Israel and then, concludes with the promise of one faithful Shepherd over Israel.
Through Ezekiel, the Lord GOD indicts those who should have cared for the flock of Israel for their self-centered, carelessness with His people. They should have been feeding the flock, instead they were concerned with only feeding themselves. The weak sheep they had not strengthened. The injured sheep they had not bound up. Those who had strayed were not brought back. And the lost? Well, for the lost they made no effort to find. Instead they ruled over the flock “with force and harshness.” They were fake shepherds. No shepherds at all.
So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.
(Ezekiel 34:5 ESV)
And then the focus of the prophetic word shifts from the “you” of the shameless shepherds to the “I myself” of the Sovereign God.
For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep.
(Ezekiel 34:11a ESV)
The Lord GOD, the Lord Jehovah Himself, condescends to search for helpless sheep. Not only to seek, but to rescue as well. To bring them out and gather them in. To lead them to their own pastures, and there, to feed them (34:11-14).
I myself will be the shepherd of My sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, . . . I will feed them in justice.
(Ezekiel 34:15-16 ESV)
Over and over again in these few short verses your can’t help but notice God’s all-in, up-close-and-personal, determination as He proclaims, “I will”.
I myself will be the shepherd of My sheep. I myself will do the work. I myself will seek the lost, bring back those who have strayed, bind up those who are hurting, and strengthen those who are failing. And, says our holy, holy, holy God who desires, with holy desire, to dwell in the midst of an unholy people, I myself will do it all with justice.
And as I chew on this, I marvel again at the heart of God, who so loves His people that He Himself engages, with a hands-on engagement, in their scattered, lost, and helpless world, that He Himself might be their shepherd.
And I wonder afresh at the Son of God, who came as God in flesh, so that He might make known to them their Shepherd. Come to seek and save the lost. Leaving the ninety-nine in order to bring back to Himself the one. Offering rest for those who are weary and heavy laden. Providing supernatural strength for those ready to drop to their knees in hopeless exhaustion.
And providing all this with justice. As the Great Shepherd offering Himself as the Lamb of God, the once for all sacrifice, for the rebellion and transgressions of the sheep. The price fully paid, the provision fully made, that they might, covered in their Shepherd’s righteousness, feed forever in green pastures.
The great I AM so desirous of His people that He would become for us the great I MYSELF.
Such is amazing grace. To Him be all the glory.