- Revd Peter Breckwoldt
Shepherd my Sheep: Leading a local church - Part II
The Lord deals with the Ungodly Leaders (v.7-10)
The charge against Israel's "shepherds" has been given at this stage. Israel's "shepherds" had been self-centred, thoughtless leaders stealing from God’s people for personal gain. They had allowed the people to become victim of other nations (v 7-8) so now, God promises to remove them and save the people. However, they are not off the hook so easily. The Lord himself would hold each "false shepherd" answerable for his shepherding (v 9-10). The Bible is full of related examples in the past, like Saul (1 Samuel 15:10-29). Herod (Acts 12:21-24), where God had raised up leaders, but removed them when they rebelled against him. And also, future world rulers’ examples, like Revelation 18. The lesson is clear: The Lord removes ungodly leaders who ever they are, and he deals them, whilst saving His people.
Ezekiel now turns to reveal the work of a godly leader. (v.11-16)
It all starts with the amazing statement that the Lord would personally assume responsibility for "shepherding" the flock of Israel. The Lord promised he would search, rescue, and bring back the people of God from the nations. Isn’t this a picture of God gathering up his people in Christ? He would care for them as a loving shepherd. The Lord would do this work so by sending a faithful Shepherd for his people: the Messiah, like David (vv 23-24). The Lord would be Israel's God; his servant would be their true Shepherd. So when Jesus declares, "I am the good shepherd" in John 10:14, He has clearly got Ezekiel 34 in the frame. Jesus is declaring that he is the true and unblemished Shepherd that Ezekiel promised. He would demonstrate it by laying down his life for the sheep. In this prophecy we see how this certainly is the final curtain for the old Israel. However, it is also the start, if they would turn from their ungodly shepherds back to the one true Shepherd, their Saviour. For us this is turning to the Christ who is revealed to us in the scriptures, the promise of a fresh new start. In these verses we see not only how God directly rules this world, but how those who are called to serve him should conduct themselves. It lays out important principles for us as leaders in the local church.
The Lord seeks the sheep when they are lost. (v.11, 16) Some of the sheep have gone astray because of wilfulness on their part or others through negligence of the false shepherds. But the God’s shepherd finds them and brings them home. A priority for us? In any society there will always be those who lose their way in life. They consume time and resources and may contribute little, but in God's eyes they are to be the concern of those who lead. The Lord is looking for the sanctification of the believer.
The Lord protects his sheep from the power of his enemies. (v.12) As Jesus said, 'the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.' He is not concerned with his own power and position, but with his people's welfare. The sheep have enemies we must be ready to protect them and all who the Lord has saved.
The Lord restores his sheep to their own land. (v.13) All who turn to Christ in repentance and faith are welcome into the church that should be a place safety and peace.
The Lord feeds them with good things. (The ministry of teaching – v.14) It is the Lord who gives to his people his word. It is for our encouragement and schooling so that we may know the mind of God on all aspects of life. We are nourished so as to be built up in our faith (2 Tim 3:16). Is this a priority for us?
The Lord brings healing and transformation. (The ministry of sanctification – v.16) We need to understand that it is God’s hand that supplies the remedy and restores the broken hearted. The implication here is that no one will perish through neglect.
The Lord will guide God’s people with justice (v. 16). The sleek and the powerful were those who took advantage of their position of power to oppress the people and claim an unfair portion of resources for themselves. God does not approve of this kind of selfish behaviour and abuse of power. God shepherds us with justice and equality.
Here in these verses are six principles that we should we aspire to take up if we are being called to leadership among God’s people.
In short we could sum up by saying that God’s Church is looking for good people who will:
Take care of us,
Love us and who will be patient with us!
Are you ready for the challenge?
Rev. Peter Breckwoldt is the Vicar of St John’s Wimborne.
Click here to check out the Latimer Trust resources on church leadership.