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Bible: What Does Ezekiel 33-34 Teach Us About Watchmen and Shepherds?
Yahweh's example here of the watchman, his message, and men's reactions to that message resemble chapter eighteen.
Both messenger and hearer are personally responsible for their own part; the one who fails to respond righteously and obediently to his responsibility suffers punishment, and vice versa.
The following table shows the possible responses and results:
1. Watchman (v. 2)
Warns the people (v. 3)
Does not warn them (v. 6)
2. Whoever hears (v. 4)
Does not take warning (v. 4)
Blood on his own head (v. 4)
He who hears (v. 5)
Takes warning (v. 5)
Saves his life (v. 5)
3. Watchman (v. 8)
Does not warn the wicked (v. 8)
Blood required at watchman's hands (v. 8)
Does warn the wicked (v. 9)
Delivered your soul (v. 9)
Requirement for Salvation
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Verses ten and eleven present Israel's perception of her spiritual condition (that is, seemingly hopeless) and God's hopeful message to her—"Repent, and live."
Next, the LORD deals with the two classes of Israelites—the righteous and the wicked—informing them that their present spiritual condition will determine whether they will survive current events.
Whether or not they live through these difficult days will depend upon their relationship with Yahweh.
That is, if they have turned from self-righteousness and sinful deeds to do what is right and lawful, they will live (vv. 12-16).
Dismissing their charges of unfairness, God merely repeats, "I will judge every one of you according to his own ways" (vv. 17-20).
[Verses 21-22 record the message of an escapee from a captured Jerusalem and the date God restored the prophet's ability to speak.
It occurred almost two months earlier than his lamentation for Pharaoh (cf. 32:1)].
In the section following, Yahweh offers several reasons why Ezekiel's contemporaries will not inherit the land promised to Abraham, despite what the nation is saying (v. 24).
Eating blood, participating in idolatry and murder, depending upon military might, committing adultery and other abominations constitute Israel's chief transgressions (vv. 25-26).
Sword, beasts, and pestilence will decimate them, and their land will become desolate.
This judgment will convince them that their God was in it (vv. 27-29).
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Regarding how Israel considers His spokesman's prophesying and ministry, God now brings Ezekiel up-to-date: "They like your songs, and hear your words, but they do not obey their message."
They do not really believe Ezekiel speaks for God, but they personally like him and his ministry.
One day, however, when judgment falls, they will know he was truly a prophet of the LORD (vv. 30-33).
Shepherding the Flock of God
Evil Shepherds and the Good Shepherd
Ezekiel next prophesies against greedy, irresponsible "shepherds" (vv. 1, 2).
He complains that they fill their pockets and bellies, but neglect providing their "sheep" with good spiritual nourishment and proper pastoral care (vv. 3, 4).
Immature sheep wander away and, having no one to protect them, become easy prey for carnivorous "beasts" (vv. 5-6).
Verses seven through ten summarize what Yahweh determined to do in light of the shepherds' misconduct and unconcern: remove the shepherds first, and then deliver the sheep.
God Himself will play the role of the Shepherd instead:
(1) He will seek His sheep and deliver them (vv. 11, 12);
(2) He will bring them back to their own "pasture" and feed them in peace (vv. 13-15);
(3) He will tenderly care for the weak, but destroy the strong (v. 16); and
(4) He will judge between them (v. 17).
Apparently, the shepherds also left the inferior land and waters for the sheep (vv. 18-19).
Discriminatory judgment between sheep will take place, for Yahweh will rebuke the "fat sheep" who treated the lean ones wickedly (vv. 20-22).
At the time this discrimination occurs, the resurrected David will shepherd Israel; God's declaration most definitely ensures this event (vv. 23-24).
The LORD describes a millennial scene of peace between God and Israel.
Voracious beasts will leave the land (v. 25) [symbolic of security], and the following blessings will abound:
(1) showers in due season (v. 26),
(2) fruitfulness in tree and land (v. 27),
(3) freedom from slavery and terror (v. 28),
(4) plenty of good food (v. 29), and best of all,
(5) a new, covenant relationship with God (vv. 30-31).
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