“Feed the flock of God that is among you…” – 1 Peter 5:2
The Lord has designed godly elders, or shepherds, to lead in the local assembly because a leaderless people is destined for spiritual ruin. As illustrated in the book of the Judges, when Israel had no leader, “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Yet God knew that no people will rise higher than the spiritual level of its leaders. Therefore, He established high spiritual and moral standards for those who lead. God also knew that when the leadership turned away from God, sadly, the people would soon follow. As the shepherds go, so go the sheep. Perhaps more than any figure in the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel captures the importance of the work of spiritual shepherds. Ezekiel chapter 34 contains important lessons for leaders today.
1. Teach the Word of God—Ezekiel 34:2
“Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?’” (v.2)
In this passage, the most significant failure of the shepherds is that they act as if they own the sheep and can treat them as they please. Feeding the flock with the “finest of the wheat” is the greatest need in the local church today. God’s sheep are crying out to be fed with in-depth teaching of the Word of God. Where is the consecutive, expository teaching from the Word of God? Where is the teaching on weighty and important doctrinal sections of Scripture? Martin Luther reportedly said, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” No ministry or work of God can succeed apart from the effective proclamation of the Word of God.
2. Ministering to the Broken and Diseased—Ezekiel 34:4
“The diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up…” (34:4).
Many in our local assemblies are suffering from broken lives and are seeking the balm of the ministry of Christ to encourage them. God’s way of healing and strengthening is through faith, grace, and the Word of God. To bind up the broken, a lamb must want to walk again. The godly shepherd applies the mending cloths to the fractured limb by pointing the lamb to Christ. For every look at themselves, the wounded should take ten looks at Christ. They need to learn to be more occupied with the finished work of Christ than with the sin and failure in their past. Psalm 147:3 tells us that “He (the Lord) heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” It is through the ministry of Christ in our lives that we are healed. Scars remind us of where we have been. They do not have to dictate where we are going. Healing of limbs can take time: and a shepherd will need to have patience with the flock.
3. Seeking the Scattered—Ezekiel 34:4-6
“The scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost…” (34:4, 5)
Faithful shepherds seek sheep that have been scattered. This scattering happens when there is no shepherd. God reminds us, “My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill…and there was no one to search or seek for them” (v. 6). As a result, the sheep were exposed to the danger of wild animals who would devour them. Today, there are many sheep that are scattered not for lack of a shepherd but for a lack of those who will do the work of a shepherd. The shepherds’ work begins before the sheep wander. It is much easier to bring a wandering sheep back when he knows the love and care of a faithful shepherd.
Shepherd the Flock of God
Christian service means invading a battleground, not a playground; you and I are weapons God uses to attack and defeat the enemy. When God used Moses’ rod, He needed Moses’ hand to lift it. When God used David’s sling, He needed David’s skillful hand to propel it. For God to feed and shepherd a flock, He needs someone completely surrendered to Him to accomplish the task. There is no substitute for Christian character and maturity. No matter how much talent and training you may have, God cannot use you as He desires if you do not have character, devotion, and godliness. May the Lord raise up shepherds who will care for the flock with tenderness, feed them with the whole counsel of God, and bind up those that are broken. These are the kind of shepherds God wants; these are the kind of shepherds we need.