Devotional Reading: Psalm 23
Lesson Scripture: Ezekiel 34: 23-31
Lesson Aims: To recognize that God holds all leaders accountable, to understand that He warns and judges sin, and to know that God is the Promise keeper.
Background: W. Phillip Keller’s book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” explains the importance of the shepherd / sheep relationship. Sheep simply don’t thrive and survive without a good shepherd. Giving their all for the sake of the sheep is the standard practice for shepherds. Leaders, like shepherds, are directly responsible for caring for their followers.
There really is no glitz and fame compared to the long hours and sacrifices made. Many desire leadership without analyzing the seriousness of the task. God holds all leaders accountable for the manner in which they rule. True leaders are not self-seeking leeches who exploit their followers.
The book bearing the prophet’s name recorded the final years of Jerusalem prior to its destruction in 586 BCE ( Before the Common Era) or BC by the Babylonians. Jeremiah’s words were for the people in Judah while at the same time Ezekiel spoke to the deportees in Babylon. Both prophets gave scathing pronouncements on the people’s disobedience to God and His judgment upon them. The majority of Judah’s kings were guilty of religious idolatry, immorality, and social injustice. God sent many warnings through the prophets – they were ignored; so judgment came. Ezekiel, from the priestly class (1:3) was a part of the second deportation (597 BC). His call came after being exiled (1: 1-3). A very knowledgeable man, he had vivid visions that were shared with his fellow captives. By today’s standards, he would be an eccentric due to the way he acted out the visions (prophetic symbolism).
To better understand the book of Revelation, references send you back to Ezekiel. There are five themes covered in this book : “God is transcendent; Judah (Israel) is sinful; Judgment is certain; Individuals are also responsible; and Restoration is ahead” (Richards’ Complete Bible Handbook). Once Jerusalem fell and the Temple was destroyed, the prophet’s message changed from doom to hope.
Lesson: Ezekiel 34 focuses on God’s reassurance that He will send one Shepherd. Verses 1-10 denounce their “worthless” kings and God promises to gather all of His scattered people (vs. 11-16). Through the prophet, God goes on to say that the strong sheep who oppressed the weaker ones will be judged! The promised Shepherd through the line of David will protect (give safety and security) and provide (meet needs) for His people. He dwells among them, bringing peace and unity. The seasonal rains bring prosperity (fruit bearing trees and bountiful harvests) to the land. God’s actions will convince them that He is Lord of all!
Application: Our study of “justice” comes to an end by giving humanity hope! When we study God’s Word and observe His creation we come away with the ideas of balance and justice. Balance is present in the sense that all things are on an even keel until that balance is obstructed, then trouble comes! Justice follows the same pattern. When we do wrong, our justification of it doesn’t make it right. God continues to warn about the consequences of sin; if unheeded, be assured that God judges! Worthless leaders do what they do for self-seeking gains at the expense of the masses. Shame on you!
We are all leaders who must account for our actions. God has kept His promise to send one Shepherd who will usher in a new era. He brought light and life to all if they accept Him. He is coming again! Can we meet God’s standard to love mercy and do justice? The new Sunday School year begins next month. Talk with you later.