Pastors, teachers, priests and prophets who should be leading, disciplining, and ministering to others are responsible for the words they speak and the deeds they commit to a higher degree than Joe Schmo. The way our relationship with God affects others, matters. (James 3:1).
God refers to them as shepherds. Some of the priests and leaders of Ezekiel’s day, rather than tend to the people, tended to themselves. The Lord had chosen them for a special and important task and they ignored it. He charged them with Israel’s sins. Verses 2-4 read,
“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.”
This happens today as well. God has entrusted us with His word, sacraments, knowledge, and commission. Believers are all priests in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:5). As we mature in Christ a natural part of that maturity is that we ourselves will disciple others, teach others what the Spirit has taught us, and be an example for others to follow. (Hebrews 5:12, 1 Corinthians 3:2, 1 Corinthians 11:1).
1 Corinthians 10:31-33 reads,
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”
We’ve seen this person. He has all the spiritual richness one could want, but instead of sharing it, feeding his brothers and sisters or giving that spiritual bread to the starving lost, he holds it for himself and his spiritual richness becomes spiritual flaccidity and obesity. It does no one any good, including himself. The relationship he could have had with the Father has become a relationship with himself at the center.
The Lord gave us the privilege of becoming a shepherd, He said that if it were abused and ignored He would take it away. Verses 9-10 read,
“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.”
The lost do not need you, they need Jesus. The weak do not need you, they need Jesus. We all need Jesus, every single one of us. We have all fallen short of the perfection required by the Lord. He is Love. He is Light. No sin or darkness can exist in Him or with Him. (Romans 3:23-26, 1 John 1:5-7, 1 John 3:4-9, 1 John 5:18-20).
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is the One we should be leading people to. In Verses 11-16 God describes Himself as the Good Shepherd.
“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 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, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.”
This passage is reminiscent of Isaiah 61 which Jesus in Luke 4 said was about Him. Later in John 10:1-5 Jesus said this of Himself,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
God hasn’t forgotten the lost. He has not discounted Israel. He himself has gone out in search of them to bring them to Him. He has an amazing promise waiting for all those who will follow Him. Verses 25-27 read,
“I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.26 And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them.”
He sent Jesus to bring them to Him, to end slavery to the law, to give freedom, joy, and peace. He commissioned the believers to be a part of that great work. We have a responsibility to feed His lambs, tend His sheep, and to love His people. John 21:15-17 reads,
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. Before He ascended to Heaven He passed that job onto the believers, you and me. Do not be selfish with the Word. Seek out the sheep, gather them, feed them, and tend them. Love them as Jesus loves you.