Monday, September 3, 2012

The Second Exodus, Part 8.

God shall send a shepherd to save Israel. In Ezekiel 34 we read about the irresponsible shepherds (the leader of Israel).

Ezekiel 34:1-17 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 "You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. 4 "The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. 5 "So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. 6 "My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them." 7 'Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As I live," says the Lord GOD, "surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock. 9 'therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD! 10 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them." 11 'For thus says the Lord GOD: "Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 "As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. 13 "And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 "I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 "I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down," says the Lord GOD. 16 "I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment." 17 'And as for you, O My flock, thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.

In the Old Testament, the leaders of the people of Israel are called shepherds, especially Moses (Psalms 77:20) and David (Ps 78:70-72; Ezek 34:23). In Ezekiel’s time, God rails, simply rails against the leaders, the shepherds, of Israel because they have been busy feeding themselves rather than feeding their sheep. Ezekiel’s comment about his time, however, it still rings true in the time of Christ. God will condemn the false shepherds Jer 23:1-2; "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!" says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: "You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings," says the LORD.

There is a lot to say in these verses that we should pay extremely close attention to in the New Testament. Jesus compares himself, in effect, to Moses the shepherd, in bringing God’s manna from heaven. John 6:32-35 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. "For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always." And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. Jesus is a superior shepherd then Moses.

The Gospel writers each portray the same Jesus as the superior shepherd in profound different ways. Matthew and John compared Jesus to the Davidic shepherd. Matthew’s gospel contains 61 quotations from the Old Testament and almost 300 allusions more than any other gospel by far. I will highlight some of those in particular that tie in with the shepherd/leader imagery.

Matthew is intentionally using and comparing images from Old Testament stories in which to cast the ministry of Jesus, thus tying him in with those traditions and painting him as the ultimate fulfillment of them for example. Jesus is seeking the people as “sheep without a shepherd” ties in with Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17 and Ezekiel 34 as a description of people without leaders. So these people need a leader. But what kind of leader? They need someone to shepherd them and to be their king—and the only person that combines both of those qualities in the way God would have them be led is Jesus, the one presented by Matthew as the superior shepherd. Wonderful echoes, right?

The shepherd who has come to “the lost sheep of Israel.” (Ezekiel 34:5-6, Eze. 34:16; Matthew 15:24) The compassionate shepherd who cares for these people who have been like a sheep without a shepherd because they have gone without faithful leaders. (Matthew 9:36; Ezekiel 34) The shepherd who feed the sheep on the mountains of Israel. (Ezekiel 34:13; Matthew 15:29-38) The shepherd would bring judgment between the sheep and sheep, between rams and goats. (Ezekiel 34:17-22; Matthew 25:31-32)

The judgment spoken of refers to protection from the bad sheep their enemies, are understood to be false sheep as typified by the Jewish opponents. Jeremiah and Ezekiel in particular develop the shepherd motif to express how God cares for his people and his condemnation of false and evil rulers.

The shepherd would be the Davidic Son and a shepherd for his flock (Ezek 34:23-24). Six times in the gospel of Matthew it records people calling Jesus the, "Son of David." Matthew 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9. In the temple in Jerusalem the people addressed Jesus as David's son. (Matthew 21:5)

Luke compares Jesus as the seeking and saving shepherd. If you know Luke’s gospel and read this title, your mind goes immediately to the parables of Luke 15 that focus on “lostness,” including the story of the one lost sheep, and the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to go and search for the one lost sheep, because God loves lost things. Isn't the Good Shepherd wonderful?

And the theme of that story ties in with Jesus’ closing statement in the story of Zacchaeus: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). But there are also some other minor shepherd themes in Luke. Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. (John 10:11)

Ezekiel’s vision of the coming of the Davidic shepherd to head over his flock (Ezekiel 34:23-24), a prophecy given in the context of God's announcement that he himself will come to lead and shepherd his flock is the image Jesus presented in the reading from John’s Gospel. John 10:27-29 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone 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 My Father's hand. The word to know and recognize are the same word in Greek (aide), so the sheep will be known by whom they know.

"Moses said to the Lord, may the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.'" (Numbers 27:15-17) The Lord then told Moses, Numbers 27:18 And the LORD said to Moses: "Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.

(Jesus is actually the name Joshua in Greek) Jesus' knowledge of his flock and their knowledge of him. John 10:14 "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

This knowledge is not simply a knowledge about one another or merely the knowledge of an acquaintance. Rather, it is an intimacy that is love. The intimacy of the Father and the Son is so close it is described as a oneness. John 10:30 "I and My Father are one." This closeness includes the most intimate of relations between Jesus and each of his sheep, and it is part of the union with God through his flock.