Shepherds, Flock, And The Shepherd Text: Ezekiel 34:11–24 -- By: John Keating Wiles

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 07:1 (Fall 1989)
Article: Shepherds, Flock, And The Shepherd Text: Ezekiel 34:11–24
Author: John Keating Wiles

Shepherds, Flock, And The Shepherd Text:
Ezekiel 34:11–24

John Keating Wiles

Assistant Professor of Old Testament
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

One of the most striking images in Holy Scripture of the relationship between God and the people of God is the picture of the Shepherd and the Flock. We are most familiar with the famous and beautiful portrait drawn in Psalm 23, but the picture is sketched many other places in Scripture. Our text from Ezekiel opens up this image in ways which may allow new light to break forth from God’s Word. We shall give our attention to this sketch of the relationship between God and the people of God.

But first, it will help us to see Ezekiel’s portrait more clearly if we first recall the more famous one from Psalm 23. You remember the poem don’t you? Recall that Psalm 23 is the reflection of a single person: “The Lord is my shepherd.” This solitary person confesses a quiet trust in God’s lavish, gentle, and protective care. What are the differences between this single person’s portrait of the shepherding image and Ezekiel’s sketch of the same shepherding image?

The sketch of Ezekiel is drawn from the Shepherd’s point of view rather than the person’s point of view. Recall how frequently the emphatic “I” is heard in our text from Ezekiel:

I, I myself will search for my sheep .... I will seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them... And I will bring... And I will feed them .... I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down... I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them... I judge...

In Psalm 23 we heard the confession of a solitary person. In Ezekiel, however, the Shepherd speaks of a whole flock of sheep. Of course, the Shepherd is concerned about single sheep, each member of the flock. The Shepherd promises to gather them back together from wherever they may be scattered. The interest of the Shepherd is that the flock live together. The Shepherd works to put people together with one another in ways in which they can have full, satisfying, wholesome, healthy fellowship. Solitary individuals are indeed scattered about among the peoples and the countries, but the focus of the Shepherd’s energies is on bringing them together into a new and public fellowship.

If the Shepherd works to bring people together into healthy, public fellowship, why would anyone wish to flee furthe...

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