Ezekiel 34:15 – I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD.

Israel’s leaders are indicted for their failure to care for the nation. Ezekiel 34uses the metaphor of shepherding to illustrate how Israel’s leaders (shepherds) oppressed the people (flock) within God’s kingdom. The shepherds looked only to their own interests by clothing and feeding themselves at the expense of the needs of the flock (Ezek. 34:2, 3, 8). Instead of strengthening and healing the sheep in their time of need, or pursuing them when lost, the shepherds have fiercely dominated them (Ezek. 34:4). This left the sheep vulnerable to wild beasts (hostile nations) and scattered them throughout the world (Ezek. 34:5-6, 8). Thus God promises to save the sheep from the “mouths” of the shepherds (Israel’s rulers), search and care for his sheep, and bring them back from where they were scattered (Ezek. 34:9-12). He will lead them back to their own land, feed them, and have them lie down in safety in good grazing ground (Ezek. 34:13-14).

Ultimately, God will judge between the fat sheep (beneficiaries and participants in the oppression) and the lean sheep (the weak and oppressed, Ezek. 34:15-22). This deliverance climaxes with the future appointment of the ultimate shepherd, a second David, who will feed and care for God’s flock as a prince should under God’s kingship (Ezek. 34:23-24). This will mark a time when God will make a covenant of peace with his sheep/people that will ensure God’s blessings of protection, fruitfulness and freedom in the land (Ezek. 34:25-31). By this all will know that God is with his people and is their true God (Ezek. 34:30-31).

The shepherding metaphor sends a message promising judgment on Israel’s wicked rulers and hope for the downtrodden and disadvantaged of the nation. This message of leadership, drawn from shepherding, is applicable to other occupations. Good leaders seek the interest of others before “feeding” themselves. Leadership that imitates “the Good Shepherd” of John 10:11, 14 is fundamentally an office of servanthood that requires genuine care for the wellbeing of subordinates. Managing people is not about power trips or holding one’s authority over others. Rather, godly and righteous supervisors seek to ensure that the people under their care are flourishing. This is consistent with best management practices taught at business schools and employed in many companies. But godly people do it out of faithfulness to God, not because it is accepted practice in their organizations.

What the shepherd does with the flock, our Shepherd will do with us. He will lead us to the high country. When the pasture is bare down here, God will lead us up there. He will guide us through the gate, out of the flatlands, and up the path of the mountain.