This sermon is number 19 in series of 24
Ezekiel - Part 19
"Watchmen And Shepherds"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2001 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Ezekiel chapter 33, we're looking tonight at chapters 33 and 34. We're not going to take time to read these passages, because we'll be going through them and we'll be highlighting specific verses, and I'm hoping and assuming that you've read them before you came here this evening - because that will help you. We're looking at the subject 'Watchmen and Shepherds'.
Now, as we enter into chapter 33 of this great prophecy, we come upon the last major division of Ezekiel's prophecy. You will have noted with me that the first division was when the glory of God departed, and we've been looking at various things such as the judgement of God upon Jerusalem, upon the whole nation of Israel. Two weeks ago from chapter 25 through to 32 we looked at God's judgement of the Gentile nations, and that was a section and a division of itself - Ezekiel was told be silent, and God indeed silenced him and made him dumb for seven years - but he did prophesy to the Gentile nations around Israel that were persecuting them and have been a thorn in their flesh right throughout their history.
But now we come to the last division of this book, from chapter 33 right to the end of chapter 48. This division speaks of the glory of God again, His glory that is one day going to return to the nation of Israel. His temple that has been destroyed in our book, and has been destroyed also in 70AD after the Lord Jesus Christ prophesied that it would be destroyed, one day a temple will be raised in Jerusalem and God's glory - His Shekinah - will again be caused to dwell there. It speaks specifically of the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that's what we will be looking at in the weeks - God willing - that lie ahead of us in these studies.
Chapter 32 concluded the predictions concerning the nations around Israel. We looked in-depth at how these nations were actually related to Israel in blood, we looked back to how they were related to Lot - the nations of Moab, Ammon and Edom. We looked right round the whole of the little nation of Israel and saw how those nations that God was judging in Ezekiel's day are still a thorn in the flesh to Israel in our present day. So we leave those condemnatory statements of God's prophet to the Gentile nations. Those prophecies that we studied, they were given before the fall and destruction of Jerusalem. But now we come to the second part, chapter 33 on, and these contain prophecies that are given after the fall of Jerusalem. So, up until now - come with me - we've been looking at the judgement of Jerusalem, the judgement of Israel. On the very date that Ezekiel pronounced that his own wife would die, the delight of his eyes would be taken away, the delight of Israel's eyes - Jerusalem and the temple - was taken away also, on that very date. Then he prophesies about the Gentile nations, all those prophecies were before the destruction of Jerusalem, but now we're coming to prophecies after God's judgement has fallen upon His people.
Now He begins again to speak of Jerusalem and to speak concerning Israel, but His message is different now. Up to chapter 25 God was only speaking of destruction, judgement upon Jerusalem and Israel, and it was destroyed exactly as He predicted - God's word, we saw, was fulfilled in every jot and tittle. But now from chapter 33 on, God is causing us to look to the future, God wants Israel to look to a future coming day of a millennial kingdom when the glory of the Lord will be seen again right throughout the whole earth. From now on He is speaking to his people in captivity, He is telling them in this concentration camp by the River Chebar, to live in expectancy of a day that is yet to come - a day that is future.
You will remember from our studies of God's judgement upon His own people that the future for them was bleak. The future was very dark, and we spent some dark dismal nights looking through dark chapters in Ezekiel where there wasn't one glimmer of hope. But now God is coming with a message of hope, He's asking them to be expectant of a better day in the future. He sees hope for the children of Israel! We are not Israel, and we need to be very careful in our reading of the word of God - especially the Old Testament - that we do not confuse Israel with the church of Jesus Christ. But in a similar way we, as God's people today, have a similar hope - for we have the hope of the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we as God's people are meant to be expecting that: His glorious appearing! It too rests upon the word of God and what He has said will take place in the future.
There are two pictures right throughout chapter 33 and chapter 34 that we're going to look at. There is the metaphor and the picture of a watchman, then in chapter 34 there is the picture of a shepherd - a false shepherd, and a true shepherd. Both of them are pictures of prophets and leaders within the nation of Israel, people who God has chosen within His people to lead the people spiritually, civically and nationally. God gives these two pictures to show the way that they should carry out this God-given elected role. Right at the outset, as we come to these two metaphors, I want us to ask ourselves this evening: what is our model for ministry in the New Testament Church? Today in the contemporary church of Jesus Christ, what do we use as models for our ministry?
I know that today many are using books on church growth that are supposedly written by experts on church growth, who tell us how we can get people on the pews, how we can pack as many people into the building as possible - all the schemes and imaginations that you can imagine. It basically goes that you need to be a manager rather than a minister of Jesus Christ, you need to be a professional organiser rather than a prayerful agoniser. We reject any scheme that is not found in the word of God, but what we have tonight is a scheme - two metaphors, two pictures that can tell us how we ought to base and model our ministry in the church today. Some model their ministry on a spiritual giant of the past, and we all have our favourites, we all have men and authors that we look up to - but that is not the pattern that we have in scripture. It is not even present preachers that we try to model ourselves on, and if I can teach you anything tonight it would be this: the sum of all spiritual things is the Lord Jesus Christ!
We've been looking through the Sermon on the Mount, and we looked at the Lord's Prayer or the Disciple's Prayer yesterday, and I was emphasising to you that even when we come to prayer, what do we use as a method for prayer? We must always go back to the Master and see what the Master did, see what the Master said. If we are disciples of His, and followers of His, He is our model, He is the sum of all spiritual things! I believe tonight we will see from all the pictures in these passages that they are fulfilled perfectly and literally in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are only to imitate men as far as they imitate the Lord Himself! Here we see a model for all Christian service. Now, don't switch off because I'm talking to pastors or elders or preachers or missionaries, I am not! I am talking about all Christian service, and that means all Christians.
So let's look at them this evening. The first is this picture of the watchman, and your first point reads 'The Watchman's Service Extended' - chapter 33. The reason why you have that title 'The Watchman's Service Extended' is because Ezekiel, in chapter 33, is recommissioned for his prophetic work. You remember, going back a few chapters to the beginning of the book, that a watchman's duty was a man who was sitting at a vantage point over the city, he could see if any enemies were coming, he was on lookout for the city and for its people, and he was there to warn and to sound the alarm if the enemy was coming. Now here in chapter 33 Ezekiel is recommissioned, his commission is renewed. He is commended by God that he has done, hitherto, a great job - he has heard the 'Well done, thou good and faithful watchman' - and now he is being recommissioned for the same job that he had in the past. He was to warn them again: to repent, to follow God's law, to follow the true and living God! If he warned them, God was telling him again, that he would not be guilty - their blood would be off his hands. Their blood would be on his hands if he didn't warn them, but if he warns them their blood is off his hands, and it's the people's problem - it's their responsibility after the responsibility of the watchman is discharged.
What God is doing in chapter 33 for Ezekiel is: He is reminding him of his call as a prophet, as a watchman. I want you to note very carefully, because we have read a very similar passage to this in chapter 3 of Ezekiel, we've read a similar passage in chapter 18, and now we come a third time to where God is saying exactly the same thing to Ezekiel in chapter 33 - and that is the principle of third mention, please note that. When God says something to each of us once, that's very important - of course it is, we have to obey God when He says anything. When God says something twice, we need to sit up and listen. But when God says something three times, we can be absolutely assured of the essential nature of what God is wanting to teach us, and it is so important that we listen to God!
Why did God do this three times for Ezekiel? Because He was recommissioning him. You know, I believe with all my heart that there are some of us here tonight and we need to be recommissioned by God. We need to be recalled by God, we have forgotten when we first believed! We can say like the hymnwriter: 'Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw Lord?'. We've lost the zeal! We've lost the thrill, the love, the enthusiasm of the Lord in our life! We've become complacent! Calvary rolls off our back, it doesn't touch us any more! Our eyes are dry, our hearts are cold and hard - and could it be that we need to be recommissioned by God? Do you know what God was reminding Ezekiel of from this passage about a watchman? He was reminding him that He still wanted men to live, that's what He was saying in this passage: 'I'm not willing that any should perish'. He's telling Ezekiel: 'It's still My will that men are not destroyed by their sin, but I want them to be forgiven from their sin'. Look at verse 11 of the chapter, God says: 'Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?'. God wants them to know!
Now listen, this passage has nothing to do with salvation - the salvation that we know. This passage is in the legal dispensation, and it's talking about men and women obeying the law of God, the ten commandments, the first five books in the Bible - that is the old economy and dispensation, that was what men and women did to show their obedience to God. Today it is to obey the Gospel, in those days it was to obey the law. Now, men and women were still saved by grace, but they were required to obey the law. God was telling them: 'Obey the law! Obey My will and you will live!'. But there is a principle, I believe - and scripture bears it out, it runs right into the New Testament - and it is the principle of responsibility. You are responsible for your own sin, you are responsible for your own disposition before God in the realm of salvation, but more than that: you are responsible as a Christian to take the Gospel to other people, and if you do not their blood is on your hands! I know there will be those who will say: 'Oh no, you're confusing, this is the legal dispensation - we're now in grace and that does not apply'. Well, I would remind you of Paul in Acts chapter 20 and verse 26 when he said: 'I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men'. He had preached the Gospel, he was pure from their blood, his hands were clean - and there we see that principle of responsibility in the New Testament.
Verse 22 says: 'Now the hand of the LORD was upon me in the evening, afore he that was escaped came; and had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb'. You remember it was prophesied in chapter 32 that whenever Jerusalem fell there would be a messenger would come from Jerusalem to Ezekiel, and when he arrived at Ezekiel to tell him that it was all done Ezekiel would get his speech back, and he would be able to prophecy. Well, here it happens and Ezekiel's mouth is opened! The silence was over, and we know that seven years has passed - seven years in silence, not allowed to say a word to the people of God! But now he's being recommissioned by God to go to those people who had offended him and to preach God's promise to the nation. Now let me say this: Ezekiel's silence was God-ordained, our silence is not. God commands us to put the trumpet to our mouths and to warn them! Do we need to be recommissioned? Do we need to be called again? Do we need to remember the reason why we were saved? To be responsible watchmen before God for people's souls! This passage bears out that if we will not be watchmen we will damage our own souls, and we will damage the souls of those that we need to warn when we do not fulfil God's commission. Have we forgotten?
Come on, let's be honest tonight! Let's cut through all the facade! When was the last time you spoke to a soul about Christ? When was the last time you had a burden to pray for a man or a woman that you were speaking to? When was last time you led a soul to Christ? Don't tell me that's a gift!
'Tis all my business here below
To cry, Behold the Lamb!
Preach Him to all and cry in death:
Behold, behold the Lamb!'
Have we forgotten? God speaks to preachers in this passage, and you know we're all preachers - preachers of the Gospel, we're to take it and gossip it around. But specifically it really is a powerful message to any of you brothers who do take up the word of God and preach publicly, for as Ezekiel is being spoken to by God you would nearly think it was a man talking to his friend because God is so honest with him, He's so clear, He's so up-front. He reminds Ezekiel that the people who he's ministering to, oh they admire him, they think he's wonderful, they think his messages are tremendous - but God has to put His arm around him, if you like, and take him into a quiet room and set him down and say: 'Now Ezekiel, they're appreciating your ministry, but secretly they're reviling you! Secretly they're speaking against you and they've no intention of obeying the word that you're proclaiming!'.
Look at verse 30: 'Son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD'. 'Come, let's hear what the word is today that comes from Jehovah!' - they were titillated by it, interested - 'What's going to happen in the future? What's going to happen next?'. Is that why you're here tonight? Well, can I ask you: in the light of what you learn, have you any intention at all, whatsoever, of obeying the commands of the word of God? They had no intention of obeying God's words, and with their mouths they showed much love, much appreciation to the minister of God's word - but their hearts, God says, were set on covetousness.
God says to Ezekiel in verse 32: 'Lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument'. Do you see what God's saying? 'You're like one singing a lovely song with a pleasant voice. You're like somebody playing on an instrument, you're just entertainment for them! You tickle their ears, you tell them something they want to hear! They're intrigued by your words, but it's all just entertainment!'. They delighted in the eloquence and the forceful way he preached, but they didn't take anything seriously that fell from his lips. Now listen, I wonder are we dangerously near to this today in conservative evangelicalism? Where we come to church to hear some new thing, to get our ears tickled, to find out what's going to happen in the future from God's crystal ball? But the question that God asks by His Spirit is: are we going to obey God's word, or is it just entertainment? 'We don't watch TV on Sunday night, we just come to church instead and sing the songs and listen to the preacher'.
But when judgement fell God declared, He said this: 'Then they'll know that a prophet was among them'. These aren't fairy stories, this is God's truth! It's going to happen, God's word is going to come to pass - but when people realised it, sadly, it was too late for them, and it will one day be too late for those who have listened to the word of God for the wrong reasons and in the wrong motivation and have not lived the holy life that God required of them! How do we listen to the word of God? How do you listen to it week after week? Have you become a sermon taster, or a preacher examiner? Do you go home, or do you sit in a little crowd or in a corner, and say: 'Well, what did you think of him this morning? Did that pass your approval this evening?'? Now, don't get me wrong: it is our duty and our responsibility to search the Scriptures to see whether these things be so, but in the name of God and for Christ's sake: if it is the word of God, obey it! Don't discuss it! Obey it!
James tells us that we can be like a man who looks in a mirror at himself, and walks away and forgets what he looks like. We need to pray that we will receive with meekness the engrafted word of God, that we will obey it, that we will not be hearers of the word alone but doers of the same. Old Isaiah saw it well when he said: 'Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men'. Do you know what He's saying? 'They've removed their hearts from me, and do you see the fear that they have, the fear of God that they pride themselves in? It's only taught to them of men'. They're taught it at Sunday School and by the Pastor and by their Daily Reading notes, but it's not of God. It's not through a deep intimate relationship, face-to-face with God, that they've grown to love Him, that they've grown to fear Him, they only fear Him out of the commandments of men. The Lord takes up that theme in Matthew 15 and says: 'This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men'.
That is the job of the watchman, the watchman is responsible for the message - but we, as watchmen, responsible to carry out the word of God. You, as listeners to the word of God, are responsible to obey it! Could it be tonight - listen, this isn't part of a fancy wee sermon, this is a question from my heart to yours - could it be that you need to be recommissioned?
Then we have chapter 34, and the second metaphor and picture: 'The False Shepherds Exposed'. If a watchman serves the people in times of danger, a shepherd cares for them day after day. We need both: we need someone to warn us about the enemy, but we also need people to tend us day by day. The shepherds here were civil and religious leaders in Israel, people who were raised up and expected to lead the people and shepherd the nation - this passage says they were expected to feed them, unite them, and protect them from their enemies. The word 'pastor' that we have today is a Latin word that simply means 'shepherd', but Israel's leaders - as we read down chapter 34 - exploited the flock in order not to feed them, but to feed themselves. They didn't unite the flock, they scattered the flock. They failed to protect the flock from danger and their enemies, and they are now shown to be liars before God - why? Because this is after the destruction of Jerusalem, and they now realised that Ezekiel was the prophet of God. These men were crying: 'Peace, peace!', when there was no peace - now Jerusalem is in dust and ashes, and God has shown that they are liars.
Oh, this is so applicable today, isn't it? Our church - and I'm talking about the church of Jesus Christ at large - it's plagued and cursed with false shepherds! Men who tell people who are lost in their sins that they're alright if they're good and church-going and moral! That they'll get to heaven - peace, peace when there is no peace! But it's going to come too late to people's realisation that they're liars! Then there are those who make God's people comfortable in a lukewarm, backslidden state. Those who are false physicians, pronouncing fitness upon the church when it's in chronic heart trouble. Then there is professionalism - now, don't confuse professionalism with excellence. We should always strive for excellence in everything that we do for the Lord, too much prevails today of: 'Ach, that'll do rightly'. Professionalism is a different thing entirely, for instead of service, professionalism is motivated by gain. It used to be in evangelicalism that we condemned the established church for being 'good living for a living', but now we are as guilty as any! We need to beware, tonight, of selfish shepherds who pamper themselves and loll in idleness and luxury without any thought for their responsibility!
That's what this passage is talking about: men who will go to any lengths to secure their own comfort, but the sheep are left scattered, confused, looking for godly leaders and finding none! These men, look at verses 2 and 3, the false shepherd feeds himself instead of the flock. He doesn't give them the word of God! When I was in Scotland recently, I was told about Gospel Halls now where they don't need to open the Bible to preach - they don't need the Bible any more. There is a famine of the word of God all across this Western world of Europe, and it will come here - if it has not already come, and I believe it has! Vernon McGee says rightly: 'These little sermonettes delivered to Christianettes by preacherettes, are not quite doing the job today'.
What is the shepherd's job? One writer says this, and I think this perfectly and brilliantly sums up what a shepherd is, and a shepherd is an elder in the assembly - listen: 'The unique combination of afflicting the comfortable, and comforting the afflicted'. Afflicting the comfortable, who are in a backslidden, lukewarm state - waking them up - but also comforting the afflicted. He confronts the fat sheep, that's what this passage talks about, he confronts the fat sheep and cares for the weak sheep. But the problem is that usually by upsetting the fat sheep, you're upsetting the people that support the church, that have sway in the church, that are influential in the extra-church society. Often the weak sheep are not comforted because it would just take too much time, and it's too demanding.
Now let's see tonight, for this is all God's word, it's all in this passage, let's see the marks of the false shepherd - and you can note these down, and this is speaking to my heart and I hope it's speaking to yours. The first thing in verse 4 we find is: they have no care for the weak, they don't tend the sick, they don't bind up the broken bones, they don't seek the lost. In other words, they are without concern, they are hardhearted cold individuals. The second thing about them we find in verse 5: the sheep are scattered by these false shepherds, they have no shepherd! Why are they scattered? Because these men aren't feeding them! I hear all the time today the philosophy, they mightn't say it outright, but the philosophy is: 'When people are not being entertained they will scatter, they leave! If you don't entertain the young people they're going to leave!' - that's not what God's word says! Look at verse 5: 'And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became food to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered' - they didn't have food themselves, they were scattered because they weren't fed, and if a man or woman doesn't get the word of God they will scatter, they will go, and they ought to go!
Thirdly in verse 5 you see: they become prey to wild animals, for the beasts of the wild feed upon them. When the sheep are scattered they are prey to beasts. Specifically to Israel here it's speaking of the Gentile nations round about her. Verse 6 tells us that there would come a day when Israel would be wandering round about the mountains of the world, and that is exactly what she's doing tonight - wandering around with no-one to seek her. She has been in that condition since the dispersion, and she will be in that condition until the return of her Shepherd and Bishop, the Pastor of her soul. Then fourthly God says that these false shepherds will be punished, verse 9: 'Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them'. Three things: He says they will lose their position as shepherds, it will be removed from them; they themselves will not be fed by the Great Shepherd to feed the sheep; and thirdly they would be judged and absolutely destroyed! God says Himself: 'I am against them!'.
If you're in a position of leadership here tonight, no matter what assembly you come from, if you're an under-shepherd of God's people you need to take your position seriously. Many times when I prepare to preach the word of God my mind is cast, I believe by the Spirit, to James 3 verse 1: 'My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation'. We haven't time to read it tonight, but I want to encourage you to go home and read Acts chapter 20, where it says there of Paul of his faithfulness as a shepherd. He was so faithful in what he did for those people, going around all the cities around Ephesus preaching to them. He said that he held back nothing from them, read it when you go home!
Then thirdly, the third picture of 'The True Shepherd Expected'. False shepherds have been exposed by God, but now God tells them in the second half of chapter 34 to expect the True Shepherd. Who's He talking about? Let's not waste any time getting to it: it is the Lord who is my Shepherd. It is the Good Shepherd of John 10 who giveth His life for the sheep. It is the Great Shepherd of Hebrews chapter 13, and the Chief Shepherd of 1 Peter chapter 5 - it is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ! Ezekiel has prophesied right throughout his book that the Lord Jesus was coming, but now he is speaking of the Lord Jesus who is coming again! I want you to bring all this together in your mind now, and realise that these prophecies here that are so applicable to us in the church of Jesus Christ today, literally they will not be fulfilled until the Lord Jesus Christ has finished all of His shepherding ministry down here on earth, and He hasn't done it yet.
One day God will seek His people Israel, and God will bring them back to their land, and the Lord Jesus Christ will be their Shepherd. Oh, if you take a casual glance down verse 11 to 29 and underline these two words: 'I will', you will see it more than 18 times, possibly 21 times - God says: 'I will, I will'. Can you imagine the comfort that that was to these people in captivity for their sin after Jerusalem had been destroyed in judgement, and God comes again after seven years silence and speaks to them 21 times: 'I will, I will, I will!'? What an assurance it was to their hearts, and what an assurance to our own. In verse 11 He says: 'I will search out the lost the sheep. I'll search them out, nobody else is looking for them, but I'll look for them!' - that's how you recognise the true shepherd, they search out the sheep. Secondly, He says in verse 12: 'I will deliver them from their enemies'. In verse 13, thirdly, He says: 'I will gather them from all the nations'. Do you see the background to Luke chapter 15 verse 4 and following, the parable of the lost sheep? That shepherd going into the mountains wild and bare to get that one lost sheep - he had been committed a hundred sheep and he wasn't going to go back without a hundred!
God is not the ogre of the Old Testament that some men make Him out to be. You can go to Psalm 78, 79, 80; Isaiah 40, 49; Jeremiah 31 - and you will find God as the Shepherd of Israel, the Shepherd of His people. He's speaking now of the nation of Israel, they're in captivity now - they were in captivity in Babylon then, but they're in captivity now - because of their disobedience against God. Because Christ came unto His own and His own received him not, and they listened to false prophets who said He was not the Messiah, He was an impostor - but God is not through with them yet! He's going to bring them as a new nation into their own land where He will be a Shepherd unto them upon the mountains of Israel. It's an absolute guarantee, and let me say it's an absolute folly for anybody to take these promises to Israel and to spiritualise them to the church today. Are you trying to tell me that the nation that was scattered is not going to be the same nation that is gathered? It is clear that this is Israel who will be gathered again, and - mark - are returning to the land this very night as we speak. We're going to deal with this in more detail in chapter 37 in the weeks still to come, but let me just say that in 1949 the Israeli Prime Minister, Ben Gurion, said that Israel's policy was this: 'Bringing all Jews to Israel', and we are still at the beginning.
He said: 'I will search out the lost sheep, I will deliver them from their enemies, I will gather them from all the nations', and thirdly He says in verse 14: 'I will feed them upon the mountains of Israel' - I'll feed them! Verse 15: 'I will give them rest in green pastures' - do you see the echo of the 23rd Psalm? 'He leadeth me beside the still waters; He maketh me to lie down on green pastures'. Would you say the land of Israel is a safe place tonight? Would you say it's dwelling in safety? This is future! Look at the plain word of God! Sixthly, He says in verse 16: 'I will put splints and bandages upon their broken limbs' - here again is the picture of the shepherd, he's a combination of toughness and tenderness. You'll not get that combination in any other individual, as far as I can see, but a shepherd: tough against the enemies of God, tough against the complacency of God's people, but tender for those who are broken hearted who need splints and bandages.
Seventhly, He says in verse 16: 'I will heal their sick'. Eighth, verse 23: 'I will establish David as the trusted shepherd', the line of David, the throne of David will rule again in the millennial kingdom. Verse 25: 'I will make an eternal covenant with them'. Tenth, verse 25 to 28: 'I will guarantee their safety, and place them in a perfect paradise'. They're not in safety tonight! They're in a barren wilderness politically, spiritually, agriculturally - and before God tonight they're cut off, but there's a day coming when He will restore them! No more will they be the prey to the heathen as they are today.
All that profess to be God's sheep God will separate. He'll separate the fat sheep from the lean, He will separate the sheep from the goats as the Lord Jesus prophesied, and He will separate them on this ground: the false sheep will be those who tread down the pasture for the other sheep, who defile the still waters for the other sheep. In other words, those of Israel who keep people back from their Messiah He will separate unto perdition! Verses 22 to 24 tell us that there is a day coming when all the works of men will be judged, but He on that day will save His flock, that remnant in Israel from their enemies and from hell. Think about this: there's a time coming - and I believe it's very soon - they're gathering back already to the land, but then they will look on Him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. Then they'll have one Shepherd, Jesus Christ the Lord!
Verses 25 to the end tell us that He then will recognise His covenant people, He will become their true Shepherd. That means this: He'll be their protector so that no harm will touch them; He'll ward off evil beasts of the Gentiles, they will cease to be in the land; they will dwell in security even in the wilderness or the forest; He will order everything absolutely necessary for their welfare; they no longer will suffer in the land a lack of moisture and barrenness agriculturally, but as Hosea said and Joel said and many of the prophets said: 'Then the former and the latter rain will be given absolutely'. If you look at verse 26, Ezekiel says that in God's due season there shall be showers of blessing. Oh, we take that and spiritualise it, and that's reasonable enough, but it's specifically and literally going to be Israel - they're going to have showers of blessing! In a coming day materially and spiritually, Israel will know blessing, all the blessings right throughout the Old Testament and the New that they haven't had yet - they're going to get them! The yoke of their enemies will be broken, they will be delivered from Gentile oppressors that they have suffered for too long, and they will dwell securely in their own land, and God will say to them what He says at the end of verse 31, look: 'I am your God, saith the Lord'. It's wonderful, isn't it?
Today, for us, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Great Shepherd of the sheep. He cares for His own, He sends showers of blessing - and we, today, in prayer are looking for God's spiritual showers of blessing on a dry land. Verses 26 and 29 tell us that wherever those showers of blessing come God makes His beautiful garden, but literally we look for a day when Christ shall reign upon this earth. The ideal form of government is not socialism, communism, capitalism or any other ism - it is kingdomism, the kingdom of God and His Christ! Here's the big question: that reign begins now in the heart of the believer. One day He will reign literally on this earth, but watchman, shepherd, receiver of God's word, is He reigning tonight in your heart? Is He the Shepherd and Bishop of your soul?
Our Father, we thank Thee for the Great Shepherd of the sheep, the Shepherd of Israel, and the Shepherd of the church, the blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Lord, we thank Thee that we have a great expectation, for He is coming to take us home. Lord, we thank Thee that the word of God teaches that Israel has that great expectation, for He will come and His feet will settle on the Mount of Olives, and He will deliver them - they will be His people, and He will be their God. We pray, our Father, that we will be obedient to the word of God as we have learnt tonight. We pray that each time we hear it we will receive it and obey it. We pray that we will learn to be shepherds of one another, and love one another and guard one another and protect each other from the evil and false doctrine, and also mend the sick and help the poor and needy. Lord, really what we're asking is: before the Lord Jesus comes, we pray that we will be found faithful. Hear our prayer, for it is for His glory we ask it, Amen.
Preach The Word
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the nineteenth tape in his Ezekiel series, titled "Watchmen And Shepherds" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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