We are beginning a new series entitled E-34: The Right Shepherd - The Righteous Shepherd. The foundation for this teaching is taken from the bible's Old Testament section, from the book of the prophet Ezekiel.
Ezekiel's historical context is this. He was the son of a second-generation priest taken captive and exiled in 597 BC, when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, captured the entirety Jerusalem, during a brief siege. Also taken captive and exiled from the Kingdom of Judah, was their young King Jehoiachin, his entire administration, his personal military guard, ten thousand capable and procreating Jews, and of course all the craftsmen and skilled workers.
This captivity and exile from Jerusalem, was the result of nearly five hundred years of corrupt, hedonistic, and depraved leadership from the kings, priests, and rulers of both the Northern Kingdom (Israel), and the Southern Kingdom (Judah).
Ezekiel's biblical and spiritual context emerges onto the scene with the beginning of a God-sized judgment and consequence for their centuries of unrighteous leadership of rebellious sin, evil ideology, and demonic behavior. They did what was right in their own eyes and abandoned the righteousness of God.
As a young temple trained priest, Ezekiel was considered righteous and godly. God chose Ezekiel along with a small handful of others (Jeremiah etc.), to deliver His spoken Words of judgment. The narrative of Ezekiel came directly from God through visions, divine visitations, and prophetic revelation. It wasn't pretty...
"you will be devastated by your enemies, you will be displaced from your homes, and you will be dispersed into captivity and I will allow it - so you will know that I am the Lord.
Then I will be silent.
When your Shepherds (leaders) have been completely eradicated by a generational purging, I will come to you. You will repent, return your hearts, seek my righteousness, and honor my Name. I will be your Shepherd and you will once again be my people. There will be a new covenant coming and I will rebuild and restore you, and all will know that I am the Lord."
What is E-34?
E-34 is a teaching for those who seek God's truth and direction in a time when lies and deception are mainstreamed as right and acceptable.
E-34 exposes and reveals not only how we got here to this 2020 place - but even more insightful into who and what it was that we allowed to lead us here.
E-34 is so far beyond politics and social injustice. It is beyond the place of pride and the compulsion to be right - it is about being righteous before God, and before humanity.
I would like to first lay out not only a specific context for this series but make a very specific application to our very relevant and real-time circumstances.
As we have learned about God, from Ezekiel - sin has consequences, even in grace.
When we have to sit in the consequences of our sin no one likes it, and no one wants to acknowledge that truth - let alone take responsibility for it.
Currently, here is how this process works...
When something that we have heard, seen, or read resonates with us or seems right to us; it is much easier for us to click like or share without fully understanding or knowing - who, what, or why.
By that I mean, the intent or motive of their heart, the depth of their knowledge and understanding, the condition or stability of their mind and emotions, or their personal experiences and learned behaviors, or even the current situation that led them to express their choice of opinion or decision.
In spite of the significance of all those factors, if we decide that they or what they are saying is right, then we feel completely justified in helping to express the ideologies, thoughts, opinions and the beliefs of someone other than ourselves.
Are we right? Maybe. Probably. Let’s find out.
Shouldn’t the bigger concern be that we are being righteous?
We can't all be right, but according to God we can all be righteous in Christ. (MORE ON THAT TO COME)
Here it is...
I can believe, say, or do something I know is right, but if I believe, say, or do it with a hateful and hurtful heart then I am a hostile to God, and I have abandoned His righteousness and have weaponized His truth just so I could be right.
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart comes all unrighteousness. These are what defile a person.
Now, what I just told you is not an attack, accusation, or an indictment of any race, color or creed. Nor is this for any one person or persons that I know or know of - it is for us, all of us.
It is an accurate description of the daily behavior and learned responses of literally hundreds of millions of people.
I would say that little process I just described has become far easier for us do than it has become for us to personally...
Love Openly - Forgive Quickly - Give Freely - Pray Faithfully - Speak Truthfully
Those responses require righteousness - not just a right response.
What does that mean?
Simply that in one of the most critical and spiritually charged times of human history - most of us would rather be right (subjective) than be righteous (absolute).
They are not the same, and it’s not even that close. We tell ourselves and others we are right - God tells us and others we are righteous. Our flesh demands we be right - Christ determines we are righteous. To be right one must be heard - to be righteous one must love.
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.
In this context, the bible continues with this...
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.
Apparently being heard is easy (yell louder) - Loving is not.
1 John 3:7-10
Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
It has become painfully evident over the last three months that most people want to do what is easy... be heard.
Be right and be heard at any cost or consequence; to friendships, families, fellowships, or the future.
Ezekiel chapter thirty-four (E-34), holds for us not only a key to relevant truth, but also to a missing spiritual revelation. The truth revealed by the Holy Spirit - the Righteous Shepherd; is what can lead a people through this critical desire and compulsion to BE RIGHT and BE HEARD.
Checked by the Spirit - led by the Shepherd.
One after another, the Shepherds of the House of Israel and Judah had decided that they knew what was right - and that their idea of right was more important than God's idea of righteousness.
For example: It was no longer right to just worship one God (righteous), it is right to acknowledge other gods as well. So, what did being right about that look like for them?
Molech - the Canaanite god represents the most repulsive of acts in God's sight, the ritualistic sexual abuse and then sacrifice of children to the pagan god, which was in no uncertain terms condemned in by the God of Righteousness - punishment by death.
They set up their abominations in the house that is called by My name, to defile it. 35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
Asherah - a Canaanite fertility goddess. Most often worshipped her through sacred or protected prostitution of minors (sex-trafficking/trading) and ritual (and sometimes incestuous) sexual practices.
1 Kings 14:22-24
During Rehoboam’s reign, the people of Judah did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, provoking his anger with their sin, for it was even worse than that of their ancestors. 23 For they also built for themselves pagan shrines and set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. 24 There were even male and female shrine prostitutes throughout the land.
Identifying Shepherds - Right and Righteous
It was a common practice of Old Testament writers to identify rulers, kings/monarchs, sovereign leaders with the humble and simple term - shepherd. Moses and David were often identified with the term. Men give titles and God gives influence.
As we will learn, in certain biblical times when there has been a man of humble and surrendered will, a man who has not only the favor of God but the favor of the people, you get both the title and influence.
Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble.
He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.
It's not just ironic, but way more so spiritually significant that both Moses and David were actually shepherds when God called and anointed them for leadership of His people. And, it is not without spiritual significance that both these men received their call to leadership over the house of Israel while they were actually serving as shepherds of an actual flock - sheep.
The context and meaning for Ezekiel's use of the Hebrew word Ra'ah; "shepherd" - hands on leadership, compassionate care.
In that context it was a strong metaphor to use for teaching hereditary monarchs who might otherwise think only in terms of dictating and exploiting God's people.
The historical recall of Rulers, Kings and Sovereigns over the House of Israel" reminds us that it was the exception rather than the rule that a righteous Shepherd led them.
[Insert Shepherd Chart] Media
Worth noting that even as a young priest; before the exile of the house of Israel, Ezekiel had no problem calling out kings who had not been righteous shepherds but rather ungodly and rebellious rulers who told the people what was right in their own eyes.
Not a real shock then to hear Ezekiel in chapter 34, precursor God's promise of an eventual righteous leadership with one more caustic verbal attack on the egregious appetite and self-adulation of the leaders/shepherds of the past. I'll be honest, they had it coming.