How do you know who to trust? In today’s world, it is easy to be deceived. We’ve all received “official-sounding” phone calls or emails that appear legitimate, but are actually aiming to harm or manipulate us. We’ve seen advertisements for miracle cures for weight loss, promising instant results with minimal effort. But after the money is paid, the product doesn’t deliver results. The aim is not to help, but to harm or take advantage of us.
In the same way, the “shepherds” in today’s reading were supposed to be genuine but were actually fake. Instead of acting as godly leaders who would serve and care for their people, they used their power to mislead and exploit them. These false shepherds— the rulers of Judah, as we know from the previous chapter—were worse than neglectful. They acted with actual malevolence, “destroying and scattering” the sheep (vv. 1–2; see also Ezek. 34:1 6).
They not only failed to do their job; they actually behaved as the enemy of the sheep. The Lord would punish them severely for this! God would fix the problem by becoming their Shepherd Himself. In historical context, the images in verses 3–4 describe the Jews’ return from Exile and faithful leaders such as Ezra and Nehemiah. The sheep would then be safe, secure, and cared for
In the long run, God would do even more for His people (vv. 5–6). He would one day raise up a “righteous Branch” or a Davidic king, that is, the Messiah, the ideal King (see Isa. 11:1–5). He will reign with wisdom, justice, and righteousness, and His name will be “The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” This is a Messianic prophecy, and at the same time, it is God keeping His promise to be His people’s Shepherd by sending His own Son.
>> Messianic prophecy has emerged as a major theme in our study of shepherd and sheep imagery in the Bible. To learn more on this topic, we recommend The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy.