The Good Shepherd
In the Old Testament, the leaders of Israel are often referred to as shepherds. They are called to take care of the people of God. But sadly they fail to look after their flock and fail to encourage them to live in ways that please God. So the prophet Ezekiel, who was called to speak God’s word to the exiles in Babylon, is given a message for these shepherds.
Reflect on the character of the bad shepherds
- From verse 2, what is the main reason Ezekiel is called by God to prophesy against the leaders of Israel?
- From the picture language in verse 3, how would you summarise what the shepherds were doing to exploit their flock?
- From verse 4, what did the shepherds fail to do?
Israel’s shepherds were bad shepherds. Instead of caring for their flock – the people of Israel – they thought only of themselves. They became fat while the people starved. They didn’t care about the weak or search for the lost. They failed to reflect the goodness of the God they were serving. So the people turned away from the Lord. Contrast this with Paul’s words of farewell to the Ephesian elders at Miletus in Acts 20:27-31.
Reflect on the character of the good Shepherd
- What is the good shepherd prepared to do for his sheep? (v 11-13). Why does Jesus describe himself in this way?
- What amazing statements does Jesus make in verses 14 and 15?. How does what Jesus says here relate to this verse in Isaiah?
Jesus declares himself to be the good shepherd. Unlike the hired hand, he is prepared to give his life for his sheep. When he says: “I know my sheep and my sheep know me”, he is showing the intimate relationship he has with his flock. And amazingly it is the same intimate relationship that Jesus has with his Father, God (vs 14-15).
Read Matthew 9:36 and re-read Ezekiel 34:2-4.
Reflect on the love of the good shepherd
- How does Jesus fulfil all that God wanted the leaders of Israel to be?
Jesus is the good Shepherd who will truly take care of his sheep. He will do all that Israel’s leaders failed to do. He will look after the sick, he will search for those who have wandered away and are lost, and he will not treat them with harshness or cruelty. In fact, he is prepared to lay down his life for the sheep.
Reflect on our secure relationship with the Shepherd
- What does the good Shepherd expect of those who follow him? (v 27)
- What assurances does the Shepherd give to those who follow him? (v 28-29)
- What is Jesus declaring in verse 30?
Do you realise that if you are a believer, then Jesus knows you? In fact, God the Father has given you to Jesus. You are God’s precious gift to his Son. And Jesus treasures and cares for you as that precious gift. He is not going to discard you. Not now, not in the future. And because of his everlasting commitment to you, he gives you eternal life and you will never perish. He holds you securely in his hand. These are beautiful words of assurance and are an encouragement to keep following our Shepherd day by day.
Something to sing about
You may like to listen to one or more of these songs as you meditate on the love of the good Shepherd for his sheep. The Lord’s My Shepherd (Stuart Townend); The Good Shepherd (Tommy Walker); The Good Shepherd (Fernando Ortega).