Ezekiel 34:1-10 (ESV):Wow. How careful a shepherd must be - and as I read this I am reminded of the awesome responsibility of "sheep-care" that shepherds have and the stern warning that God gives to shepherds NOT to be feeding themselves for the purpose of getting fat - but to feed themselves for the purpose of caring for the sheep of God's flock.
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. 6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. 7 "Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.
When shepherds devote themselves to becoming fat on God's Word and neglect the care of the sheep (we won't even get into the question of shepherds who fail even to feed themselves on God's Word), what happens? See first, Eze 34:4-5:
- Weak sheep are not strengthened.
- The sick and injured sheep are not bound up.
- Sheep are ill treated and lorded over.
- Sheep are scattered.
- Sheep are vulnerable to wolves and fall prey to them.
When the sheep are forced by the negligence of the shepherds to feed them, they must search for and find food for themselves. What kind of food do sheep look for if they are not guided? What kinds of poisonous food might they wander into if they are not helped to find good pasture? Think about it. Is this not occuring today, also?
Finally listen to the warning in Eze. 34:10 - this caps the passage and sets it in all seriousness: the LORD will require His sheep at the shepherds' hands. It is indeed a STERN and SOLEMN warning to all shepherds to shepherd well and according to God's Word. May this warning take root in our churches, that the Lord's prescription be obeyed, and the Lord glorified in His church.