What animal is mentioned most often in the Bible? If you guessed “sheep,” you are right! Sheep were an important part of the economy of ancient Israel. It is no surprise that many biblical characters spent at least some of their life as shepherds, including Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Moses, David, and Amos.
Shepherding in Israel was different than it is today. There were no fenced-in fields. Instead, shepherds had to be with their sheep to protect them from predators, lead them to good pasture, shelter them from the weather, and tend to their injuries. Shepherds became symbols of good leadership. Like shepherds, good leaders are compassionate, caring, and protective of those under their care.
In today’s reading, God denounces the so-called shepherds of Israel. The priests and leaders of Israel had failed. They had extorted their people and did not care for them (vv. 2–4). They have not tended the sick and weak or sought the lost. They did not lead with compassion but with harsh brutality (v. 4).
God declares that He will personally shepherd His people (v. 11). He will seek the lost, heal the sick, provide, and protect His people (vv. 11–14). This type of leadership is personal, sacrificial, and loving. He protects the weak from the oppression of the strong (vv. 20–21).
In verses 23–24, God says He will shepherd His people through “my servant David.” Ezekiel is writing during the exile, long after David. The promise is that there will be a coming Davidic ruler who will be the ultimate Good Shepherd. This promise is fulfilled by the Lord Jesus. Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
>> As followers of Jesus, we have a Shepherd who cares for us, guides us, protects us, and loves us. What a gift this is! Perhaps it is time to return to your image journal and paint an image of a Shepherd caring for the sheep.
You truly are the good shepherd. The longer we follow You, the more we are amazed by Your careful guidance and discipline. We look back and see the ways You directed our steps, even when we didn’t know it. Thank You, Father!