Today we are continuing E-34. As last week we are still using a pretty narrow biblical context to establish a broader personal application. Two things we can start with today.
One - We know that Ezekiel (historically speaking) was not actually writing to us, or about us.
Two - His prophetic words and visions finally got on to some form of parchment around 570 B.C.
Here is why that is important. Because under the direction of God's Spirit, Ezekiel was writing directly FOR us. Here is the heart of God within those very words.
Then this message came to me from the LORD: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? 3 You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. 4 You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. 5 So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. 6 They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them.
7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. 9 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey.
These words of Ezekiel were also written down and preserved for almost twenty-five centuries so that God's heart and covenant expectations of righteousness from His shepherds/leaders would be revealed and remain relevant for generations to come.
A revelation of righteous leadership for God's people that would eventually be revealed and fulfilled through Christ Jesus in a new covenant relationship with God for all people at all times from all places.
Here is what is so interesting about that... The new covenant in Christ would continue to reveal God's unchanged heart of expectation righteous leadership from His shepherds.
Our template for this of course is given to us through Jesus, as He introduced Himself to the world as "The Good Shepherd." The Shepherd who was now willing to lay down His life for His sheep. When I read these passages over and again these past two weeks it was as if I could feel the "good shepherd" in the same room - as if He leaned towards me and started saying;
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.
What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
As a pastor and shepherd who reaches continually to love and lead His people, reading these words pierced my heart. Not a guilt or shame filled piercing but rather a piercing of the heart that reminds us, calls us and alerts us.
E-34 is saying, "Here is what the arrogant pursuit of being right in our own eyes looked like in our day, Here is how that unrighteousness played out in the lives of our shepherds, and the judgments of our people who willing followed with a total disregard for the righteousness of God."
The personal connection and practical application available for us is both as;
Shepherds as Leaders and Leaders as Shepherds.
As we discovered last week, when filtering the undeniable relevance of Ezekiel's prophetic words, visions, and our present-day circumstances through the truth-grid of God's wisdom and who He is - it causes the genuine follower of Jesus to be caught within the uncomfortable tension of an obvious spiritual struggle. Be patient - this is not a bad thing - it is a Holy Spirit thing. God's Spirit, piercing our heart. Not a guilt or shame filled piercing but rather a piercing of the heart that reminds us, calls us and alerts us.
The Rightness of Man versus the Righteousness of God
If you or I are determined to provide the leadership of a righteous shepherd to our family, friends and to our Church communities, then E-34 is it for us. If that is not your determination, then E-34 is not so much for you, as much as it is about you.
Last week we re-introduced a long-time Reunion biblical truth from the living Gospels, known and named by us as - The Jesus Manifesto.
Let's build this week off of that Manifesto. Use it as a touch-up on what Jesus-Sized truth reveals to us in the context of E-34 and His Heart for the Righteous Shepherd.
Love Openly - Forgive Quickly - Give Freely - Pray Faithfully - Speak Truthfully
It is safe to say those kinds of virtuous and valued responses still come with as I said - Jesus-Sized expectations.
Expectations that require significant levels of spiritual humility and moral righteousness.
What is that?
Well I know what it isn't. It isn't you or I simply determining and deciding in our own eyes what is right.
But what does that mean?
Simply this: In one of the most critical and spiritually saturated times of human history - too many of us have decided we would rather be subjectively right - than be objectively righteous.
And as I said last week, they are not the same, and the distinction is biblically very clear.
To be subjectively right is to use the partiality of my personal truth to make limited determinations of what is morally and ethically right.
To be objectively righteous is to use the impartiality of God's truth to gain an unlimited understanding and revelation of what is morally and ethically right.
Here is a biblical template to help Shepherd's (spiritual leaders), move into a more Spirit-Centric revelation of those un-changing and objective truths.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. 12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.
For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
The steps of a righteous man are established by the LORD, though he fall, he will not fall flat on his face, for the LORD upholds his hand. I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing.
The Bible is the eternal search-engine for righteousness and truth. As righteous Shepherds/Leaders, as righteous fathers we must use that search engine to find the righteous ways of God and not settle for the way that seem right to man. To free ourselves and our children from the ways of men who now appear to be fully enslaved to the demonic task of destroying the righteousness of God
God's Heart for the Righteous Shepherd - Leader - Father
Feed the Sheep
Give Attention to the Weaker Sheep
Take Care of the Sheep Who are Sick
Look for the Sheep Who are Lost
Love the Sheep We Have
Protect the Sheep from Evil
Know the Sheep by Name
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