Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel the son of Buzi which would begin in the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters thirty-four through thirty-seven of this Old Testament prophetic book. THE SHEPERDS OF ISRAEL! THE MOUNTAINS OF ISRAEL! MOUNT SEIR! RESTORATION! RESURRECTION! REVIVAL! When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find a number of different prophetic narratives that are taking place within this Old Testament book of Ezekiel. As you begin reading with and from the opening verse of the thirty-fourth chapter of this book you will find the word of the LORD coming unto Ezekiel concerning the shepherds of Israel—and not only the word of the LORD coming unto Ezekiel concerning the shepherds of Israel, but also indicting them for their negligence, their selfishness, and their lack of concern and compassion for the sheep within the nation and house of Israel. It’s actually quite interesting to consider the contrast between the shepherds of Israel—those who were given stewardship and responsibility and faithfulness over the sheep of Israel—and the LORD Himself who would rise up as a shepherd for and unto His people. It would be incredibly wise for us to consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for what would begin with a prophetic word indicting the shepherds of Israel would ultimately culminate with resurrection in a graveyard of dry bones. What’s more, is that not only would this selected passage conclude with a resurrection and revival in a graveyard filled with bones, but it would also conclude with a powerful statement and declaration how the LORD would through bringing His people back to the land of Israel would once more join them together. Despite the fact the house of Israel and the house of Judah went into captivity at different times and were carried away captive by two different empires, the LORD would join them together once more and would bring them back as a united people. Even though they exited and departed the land of Israel divided and separated from each other, the houses of Israel and Judah would not only be united once more as a people, but they would be restored in the land which was sworn unto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and given unto them and their descendants for a perpetual inheritance, heritage and possession.
If you begin reading in the thirty-fourth chapter of this prophetic book you will find the word of the LORD coming unto the prophet Ezekiel concerning the shepherds of Israel, and those who were given a responsibility to care for and look after the sheep of the LORD’s pasture. As you read these words, however, you will find the word of the LORD indicting these shepherds of Israel because of their lack of care, their lack of compassion, and their lack of concern for the sheep of Israel. It’s actually quite tragic to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for what you find within these verses is a powerful indictment against those who were given stewardship and responsibility to care for and look after the sheep. The word of the LORD, however, would reveal that these shepherds would show absolutely no regard, nor any concern for the sheep of the LORD’s pasture, and would care for and be concerned about themselves. What an incredibly tragic indictment it is to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for there is a powerful condemnation and rebuke for these shepherds who although they were given a specific charge to care for and look after the sheep of Israel, they were so self-absorbed and self-seeking that they not only neglected their concern and care for the sheep, but they would also live off the sheep themselves. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for it brings us face to face with the great care, the great compassion, the great concern, and the great level of consideration that is needed within and among the sheep of Israel and the flock of God. If there is perhaps one central truth and one central theme that runs through this passage of Scripture, it’s that the sheep which are being referred to here in this passage were more than just the sheep of Israel, but they were the flock of God. These sheep belonged unto the LORD and were His flock and His people within and in the midst of the earth, and therefore the LORD required faithfulness when it came to caring and looking after the sheep.
As you read the words found in the thirty-fourth chapter of this prophetic book you will find it being revealed unto Ezekiel concerning the shepherds of Israel and their sheer and utter neglect of the sheep of Israel, and their selfishness for and unto themselves. If you begin reading with and from the second verse of this chapter you will find the following words written and recorded in this chapter by the prophet Ezekiel according to the word of the LORD: “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is on shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them” (Ezekiel 34:2-6). THAT DO FEED THEMSELVES! YE EAT THE FAT! YE CLOTHE YOU WITH THE WOOL! YE KILL THEM THAT ARE FED! YE FEED NOT THE FLOCK! THE DISEASEED HAVE YE NOT STRENGTHENED! NEITHER HAVE YE HEALED THAT WHICH WAS SICK! NEITHER HAVE YE BOUND UP THAT WHICH WAS BROKEN! NEITHER HAVE YE BROUGHT AGAIN THAT WHICH WAS DRIVEN AWAY! NEITHER HAVE YE SOUGHT THAT WHICH WAS LOST! WITH FORCE AND CRUELTY HAVE YE RULED THEM! THEY WERE SCATTERED BECAUSE THERE WAS NO SHEPHERD! THEY BECAME MEAT TO ALL THE BEASTS OF THE FIELD WHEN THEY WERE SCATTERED! MY SHEEP WANDERED THROUGH ALL THE MOUNTAINS, AND UPON EVERY HIGH HILL! MY FLOCK WAS SCATTERED UPON EVERY HIGH HILL! MY FLOCK WAS SCATTERED UPON ALL THE FACE OF THE EARTH! NONE DID SEARCH OR SEEK AFTER THEM!
The words which we find within this passage of Scripture are such as are quite remarkable and astonishing when you take the time to truly consider them, for what begins with shepherds who in their own self-seeking and self-absorbed ways look out, look after and look only unto themselves would ultimately begin with the sheep who were entrusted into their care being scattered on all the high hills and all the mountains. What’s more, is that as a direct result of the sheep being scattered on every high hill and every high mountain they became vulnerable and susceptible to the beasts of the field, and would become meat and a prey unto them. Ultimately it wasn’t about the sheep being scattered upon the high hills and mountains of the earth, but it was about them becoming a prey as a result of their being scattered. When the sheep should have remained within their own pasture, and when the sheep should have been looked after and cared for by faithful shepherds who should have cared for and looked after them, they were scattered abroad among the high hills and mountains and would spend their days as a prey before and unto the wild beasts of the earth. You cannot read these words and not be absolutely and completely gripped and captivated with and by the fact that the indictment of the shepherds would begin—not necessarily with their lack of care for the sheep, but with their indulging themselves, satisfying themselves, and looking after and caring only for themselves. The LORD condemned and rebuked the shepherds of Israel because they fed themselves, they ate the fat, they clothed themselves with the wool, and they killed those which were fed. The indictment of the LORD toward and against the shepherds would be a strong and powerful indictment toward and against the shepherds for caring and looking after themselves alone—and not only caring for themselves, but ignoring the needs of the sheep while they made sure they themselves were taken care of and satisfied.
What makes the indictment toward and against the shepherds of Israel all the more damning is when you consider how the word of the LORD would further condemn and rebuke these shepherds—not merely for feeding themselves rather than the flock, but because they refused to care for, show concern, and demonstrate compassion for the sheep. It might even be said that these shepherds of Israel had absolutely no care, nor any concern, nor any compassion for the sheep of Israel—those whom they were entrusted with the responsibility of caring and looking after. The word of the LORD would continue to reveal how these shepherds would not feed the flock, would not strengthen the diseased, would not heal that which was sick, nor bound up that which was broken, nor brought again that which was driven away, nor sought after that which was lost. Stop for a moment and consider just how damning these words are concerning the shepherds, for the LORD wasn’t speaking about the heathen, nor was the LORD speaking about the Gentiles. The LORD wasn’t speaking about the Gentiles and their treatment of His sheep and His flock, but rather He was speaking directly unto the shepherds of Israel who bore the great and tremendous responsibility to care for and look after the sheep. It’s actually quite tragic and alarming when you think about and consider the words which are found in this passage—particularly and especially in light of the words which are written and recorded in the Old Testament poetic book of the Psalms, as well as the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah. It is in the Old Testament book of Psalms we find a powerful declaration concerning the LORD being David’s shepherd and what the LORD being shepherd actually looks like. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah we don’t necessarily find words that speak to and speak as the LORD being a shepherd, but they speak concerning the care and compassion of the LORD for His sheep. I am convinced that in order for us to truly understand the tragic reality surrounding the words of indictment and rebuke concerning the shepherds of Israel, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we consider these words found in these two Old Testament books. As you read the words you will notice a strong and powerful contrast between the LORD as a shepherd and the shepherds of Israel who exercised sheer and utter neglect for the sheep. With that in mind, consider if you will the following words which are found in these two passages of Scripture—first beginning in the twenty-third chapter of the book of Psalms, and then transitioning to the sixty-first chapter of the book of Isaiah:
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the hoes of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:1-6).
“The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: Men shall call you the Ministers of our God: Ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: Everlasting joy shall be unto them” (Isaiah 61:1-7).
I SHALL NOT WANT! LYING DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES! LED BESIDED STILL WATERS! RESTORATION OF THE SOUL! LED IN THE PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE! FEARING NO EVIL IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH! THE LORD IS WITH ME! THE ROD AND STAFF COMFORT ME! A TABLE PREPARED IN THE PRESENCE OF OUR ENEMIES! OUR HEAD ANOINTED WITH OIL! OUR CUP RUNNING OVER!
GOOD TIDINGS FOR THE MEEK! THE BROKENHEARTED BEING BOUND UP! THE PROCLAMATION OF LIBERTY TO CAPTIVES! THE OPENING OF THE PRISON TO THEM THAT ARE BOUND! THE PROCLAMATION OF THE ACCEPTABLE YEAR OF THE LORD! COMFORT FOR ALL THOSE THAT MOURN! APPOINTING UNTO THEM THAT MOURN IN ZION! BEAUTY GIVEN FOR ASHES! THE OIL OF JOY FOR MOURNING! THE GARMENT OF PRAISE FOR THE SPIRIT OF HEAVINESS!
The words which are written and recorded in the thirty-fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel do indeed and do in fact indict the shepherds of Israel, however, what they also do is provide a powerful statement of the LORD rising up to care for and look after His sheep. The LORD saw the self-absorbed and self-seeking shepherds who neglected and ignored His flock, and the LORD saw how His sheep were being neglected, and how the sick were not healed, nor the lost sought after, found and brought back. The LORD watched and beheld the sheer and utter neglect of the shepherds of Israel who should have cared for and looked after the flock of the living God, and the LORD Himself would rise up to care for and look after the sheep of His pasture. Perhaps the single greatest truth that is found within this passage of Scripture is that these sheep belonged to the LORD—and as such, the LORD would require faithfulness from His shepherds. The LORD would entrust His sheep into the hands of those whom He expected faithfulness in care, concern and compassion, and He would require them to carefully look after His sheep that they might be taken care of, and provided for. What’s more, is the LORD expected that when His sheep were lost there would be those who would seek after and search for them that they might bring them back. The LORD expected that when any of His sheep were sick and diseased the shepherds would look after and care for them, and would provide healing for the sheep of His pasture. What the LORD would find instead were shepherds who would be concerned for themselves alone and their own needs. What a terrifying and tragic thought it is to think about the sheep of the living God and His flock being in the hands of those who not only would not feed them, who would not only not seek after them if they were lost, and who would not bring healing unto those which were sick and diseased, as well as those who would care only for themselves and make sure their own needs were met, and that they themselves were satisfied. Oh, these shepherds could care less about the condition of the sheep so long as they themselves were fed and satisfied. What’s more, is that I would dare these shepherds would leave the flock to their own demise and their own destruction so that they could take care of themselves and make sure that they were satisfied.
Before I present you with the LORD’s response to the neglect of these shepherds and the words which are found in the remaining chapters of this reading, I feel it is absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the Old Testament book of First Samuel. It is the words found in this Old Testament book that bring us face to face with certain “shepherds” of Israel—those who were given a responsibility to faithfully steward, care for and minister unto and among the sheep of God, and yet who not only cared only for themselves, but would abuse and mistreat the flock of God. If and as you read the words which are found in this Old Testament book of First Samuel—specifically in the opening chapters—you will find the narrative of the house of the LORD which was in Shiloh, and a house in which Eli was the high priest, and his sons Hophni and Phineas were priests and ministers unto the LORD. What’s more, is you will find that here at the house of the LORD in the midst of Shiloh the priests and ministers of the LORD—those who were responsible for caring for and ministering unto the sheep of God in the very house of the LORD where the people would come with their gifts and offerings that they might worship before the LORD their God. It’s actually quite alarming and tragic to think about and consider the fact that in the very place where the people of God should have found shelter, refuge and rest they would instead find abuse, mistreatment, and a certain forcefulness that would surround the priesthood and those who were responsible for caring for and looking after them. What a terrible thing it is to think about and consider the fact that in the sanctuary and house of the LORD where men and women expect to find shelter, rest, peace and refuge, they instead find abuse, neglect, force, and perhaps even in some cases mistreatment and affliction. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are written and recorded in the opening chapters of the Old Testament book of First Samuel:
“Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD. And the priests’ custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a flesh hook of three teeth in his hand; and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the flesh hook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12-17).
“Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? For I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’s people to transgress. IF one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them” (1 Samuel 2:22-25).
“And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever” (1 Samuel 3:11-14).
ABHORRING THE SACRIFICES! ADULTERY IN THE HOUSE! ABUSE IN THE COURT! I am convinced it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that which is written in these passages found in the Old Testament book of First Samuel, for what we read concerning Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas bring us face to face with a terrible iniquity and transgression that was committed in the house of the LORD. In that place where the people of Israel would come with their gifts, their sacrifices and their offerings which was to be presented unto the LORD upon His holy altar, they would be met with abuse of power, adultery in the courts, and a sheer and utter disregard for the sacrifices of the living God. What’s more, is what we find here is a powerful picture of those who were entrusted to care for and look after the sheep of the pasture of God not only abusing their power, but also indulging themselves off the sheep. Hophni and Phineas were corrupt and vile priests whom Scripture referred to as sons of Belial, and in the place where the people of God should have found peace, shelter, safety, refuge and rest, they would instead find abuse of power, force, adultery, mistreatment and oppression. Moreover, these two sons of Belial indulged themselves and made themselves fat off the sacrifices and offerings of the people. These sons of Belial cared absolutely nothing for the people, nor even for the sacrifices of the LORD, nor for the altar of the LORD, and chose to indulge themselves as they saw fit that their own needs might be met. What’s more, is that these two sons of Belial would use their office as priests of the LORD to indulge themselves and all their physical desires, passions and lusts, as they would not only indulge their appetite and lust for women, but they would also indulge their appetite for food. It is safe to say these sons of Belial who served as priests lived only for themselves, and who used their office as priest to satisfy their own desires, their own passions, their own lusts, and their own “needs” at the expense of the people. At the expense of the people they would indulge their appetite from the sacrifices, and at the expense of the women who would come unto the house of the LORD they would engage their lust and carnal passions.
The narrative we find in this Old Testament book is a powerful example—just one of many found within Scripture—of those who were entrusted to care for and look after the sheep and flock of God demonstrating sheer and utter neglect for the flock of God. Through the narrative of Hophni and Phineas we find priests of the LORD who would not only use their office as priest to satisfy their own carnal and physical appetites, but they would also use the sanctuary and house of the LORD to carry out their wickedness and vile behavior before the LORD. Moreover, these sons of Belial would corrupt, defile and pollute themselves before and in the sight of the living God, and would enlarge themselves at the expense of the people of God. The example of these two corrupt priests and sons of Belial is a powerful example of showing and demonstrating sheer and utter neglect for the flock of God, and focusing solely on pleasing themselves and satisfying their own desires, their own wants, and their own “needs.” It is worth considering the words which are found in this passage—particularly and especially in light of the words revealed unto the prophet Ezekiel—for what you find in the prophetic book of Ezekiel is a powerful indictment against the shepherds of Israel who not only fed themselves—perhaps even to make themselves fat off the sheep—but who would also clothe themselves with the wool of the sheep. Moreover, these shepherds would further compound their iniquity and transgression before the LORD by failing and refusing to care for and look after the sheep of God. These shepherds would continue indulging themselves while showing sheer and utter contempt for the sheep of God by allowing the sick and diseased to go untreated, and by allowing those which were lost to continue to wander. NO HEALING, NO RESTORATION! Each of these realities help set the stage and set the framework for what we find in the coming chapter—specifically what we find in the thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh chapters of this prophetic book—for within these chapters you will find the LORD rising up and stepping in to bring restoration and healing unto His flock and unto His sheep. You cannot read the words found in chapters thirty-six and thirty-seven without coming face to face with the awesome and incredible reality of the LORD bringing restoration, bringing healing, bringing revival, bring unity, and brining rest and peace unto His sheep. Before we get into the words which are found within these chapters I would like to draw and call your attention to the following words found in the thirty-fourth chapter which demonstrate the LORD’s concern, care and compassion for His sheep and for His flock:
“Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the LORD God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. For thus saith the LORD God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the LORD God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment. And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the LORD God; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? And to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet. Therefore thus saith the LORD God unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle. Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad; therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it. And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the trees of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them. And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid” (Ezekiel 34:7-28).
The more I read the words which are found in this chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel the more I can’t help but be drawn and captivated by the fact that what would begin as a terrible and tragic indictment against the shepherds of Israel, as well as the goats which were present among the sheep would ultimately transition to a powerful message of restoration the LORD would bring unto His people. The word of the LORD would continue to be spoken by the mouth of Ezekiel the son of Buzi and the LORD would emphatically declare unto His people that He would restore them once more unto their land, and would no longer allow them to be scattered, and would no longer allow them to be a prey. NO MORE BEING SCATTERED, NO MORE BEING A PREY! It’s absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the words we find in this passage of Scripture, for while it was indeed true the LORD would bring an indictment and rebuke against the shepherds of Israel, as well as the he goats among the flock, the LORD would ultimately bring a message of hope, a message of peace, a message of rest, and a message of restoration. As you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will encounter the awesome reality that the LORD Himself would seek after and search out His flock which was scattered among the nations of the earth, and would not only bring them back unto their land, but would restore them in the midst of it. The LORD would no longer allow His sheep and His flock to be scattered, and would no longer allow them to wander among the nations of the earth and be a prey to the wild beasts of the earth. The LORD would indeed watch over, care for and look after His flock, and would bring them back unto their own land where He would not only plant them, but would also continue to care for and provide for them. The LORD would give them a shepherd who would faithfully watch over and protect them, and would provide for them everything they needed. The LORD promised to bring them forth out of the nations and countries in which they had been scattered, and the LORD would once more bring them back into and unto their own land where He would plant and build them up. What’s more, is the LORD would cause them to lie down in their own land, and would feed them—twin realities that seem to echo the words which David spoke concerning the LORD and His care and compassion for Him.
It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the latter portion of this chapter, for while the LORD would indeed and would in fact indict both the shepherds over the flock and the he goats in the midst of the flock who would abuse the sheep of His pasture, the LORD would promise restoration once more. Although the sheep of Israel had been scattered among the nations and countries of the earth, and although they had been a prey unto the wild beasts of the earth, the LORD would rescue them from those nations, and would restore them into their own land. Pause for a moment and think about the incredible promise the LORD was making to His people, but His promise not only spoke of rescue, but His promise also spoke of restoration. As you read the words found within these chapters you will find three incredibly powerful truths and realities which the prophet Ezekiel would proclaim unto the house of Israel which would be living as captives in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans. The house of Israel would live as captives and exiles in the midst of a strange and foreign land, and they would be separated from that land which was their inheritance, their possession and their heritage, and through the prophet Ezekiel the LORD would promise rescue from the nations and countries in which they had been scattered, the LORD would promise resurrection, renewal and revival, and the LORD would promise restoration. RESCUE, RESURRECTION, REVIVAL! You cannot read the words found within these chapters and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome truth that the LORD would rescue His people out of the countries into which they had been scattered—and in the process of rescuing them out of and from those countries and nations He would bring about a great and powerful resurrection of that which was thought and believed to have been long dead. What makes these particular chapters so absolutely remarkable and astounding when you think about and consider them is the tremendous promise the LORD would make unto the house of Israel—not only of rescuing them out of the nations and countries into which they had been scattered, and not only raising them to life once more, but also restoring them in the midst of the land which He promised and swore on oath to their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of the awesome reality surrounding these chapters, for it is at this juncture the word of the LORD would begin speaking unto Ezekiel concerning the restoration, resurrection, and rescuing of His people.
It is this concept of resurrection that is actually something worth thinking about and considering, for when you think about the people of God being in the land of the Chaldeans, you almost get the sense that the nation of Israel died a temporary death and was buried in the land of the Chaldeans for seventy years. A SEVENTY YEAR BURIAL! The more I think about the captivity and exile of the people of Israel, the more I can’t help but get the strong sense that what the LORD did during those seventy years was essentially bury them in the land of the Chaldeans until the appointed time when He would visit them in their captivity and exile and raise from the dead. I realize there might be some who would think that this concept of raising the nation of Israel from the dead is something that is far-fetched, and something that makes absolutely no sense, however, if and as you read the words which are found in these chapters—specifically chapters thirty-six and thirty-seven—you will find the language of rescue and restoration, but you will also find the language of resurrection. In fact, I would dare say that you cannot read these chapters and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome reality of the children of Israel experiencing a truly wonderful and powerful resurrection which would take place in the land of the Chaldeans, as the LORD would visit them and raise them from the dead, thus causing them to live again. The LORD of hosts would visit the house of Israel in their captivity and exile, and the LORD would cause them to live again—and not only live again, but also rise again. The entire thirty-seventh chapter of this prophetic book is centered around this concept of resurrection and revival, as the LORD would send the prophet Ezekiel into a valley that was filled with dry bones and instruct him to prophesy and speak unto the bones that they might live again. I think about and consider the house of Israel being found within the land of the Chaldeans, and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the reality that the LORD would essentially plant them there in the midst of the land that they might grow until the appointed time when He would bring them forth from the midst of the land. The LORD would indeed bring them into the land of the Chaldeans and would allow them to essentially “die” in the soil and ground of Chaldea that at the appointed time He might visit them and resurrect them from death to life. The living and eternal God would visit the house of Israel there in the land of the Chaldeans and would bring about a great revival and resurrection in the midst of that land in order that from that place of resurrection and revival the house of Israel would be brought forth from the midst of the land and restored unto their land. With this in mind, consider if you will the following words found in the thirty-sixth chapter of this prophetic book beginning to read from the sixteenth verse:
“Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it: and I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land. But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God; I do not this for your sakes, O hoes of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the LORD God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleanness: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the LORD God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD builded the ruined places, and plant that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it. Thus saith the LORD God; I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 36:16-38).
We must pay close and careful attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for with these words the LORD would once more proclaim through His servant Ezekiel that He would rescue His people from the nations and countries into which they had been scattered, and in which they had wandered as a prey for the wild beasts among those nations. It is at this juncture within the prophetic book of Ezekiel we find the prophet experiencing a transition in the prophetic message the LORD was calling and instructing him to declare, for his words would not transition to that of the LORD rescuing His people out of the nations and out of the lands into which they had been scattered. THE GOD WHO KNOWS RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE! THE GOD WHO KNOWS YOUR LOCATION! Perhaps one of the most powerful truths that is found in this narrative is that despite the fact that the house of Israel had been scattered among the nations and countries of the earth, the LORD knew exactly where they were. What I find so absolutely remarkable and astounding when reading the words contained in this passage is that although the house of Israel had been scattered among the nations of the earth, the LORD knew right where they were. Despite the fact that they might have felt abandoned, neglected, forsaken, despised and rejected, the word of the LORD through the prophet Ezekiel would powerfully proclaim and declare unto them that the LORD not only knew right where they were, but the LORD would rise up and rescue them out of the midst of those nations and countries. The LORD was very much aware of where the house of Israel had been planted among the nations of the earth, and the LORD knew where to go that He might rescue them out of the midst of those nations. How absolutely remarkable and incredible it is to think about the fact that through these words we get the strong sense that the LORD knew right where the house of Israel was in the land of the Chaldeans, and even though they had been scattered among the nations and countries of the earth, the LORD was very much aware of where they were. The LORD had not somehow lost track of His sheep and where they were, but was very much aware of where they had been scattered. Even though they themselves might have felt lost, the LORD knew right where they were, and so long as the LORD knows where you are you are never lost. SO LONG AS THE LORD KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE, YOU ARE NEVER LOST!
Stop for a moment and think about that awesome and powerful truth, for I am absolutely convinced there have been times when we as the people of God have felt lost, and as though we have absolutely no clue or idea where we are. In fact, there is within the thirty-fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel this language of being lost, as the sheep and flock of the living God would essentially be lost in the midst of the nations and countries in which they were scattered. What makes this actually quite intriguing is when you think about the fact that although the house of Israel felt lost in the midst of the nations in which they had been scattered, and although the house of Israel might not be familiar with their surroundings or where they were, the LORD of hosts knew right where they were. I cannot shake this truly wonderful truth that so long as the LORD knows where we are we are never truly lost—despite the fact that we ourselves might feel lost. Oh, it might very well be true that you feel lost right now within your life, and where you are in the midst of this generation, and yet the word of the LORD through the prophet Ezekiel demonstrates and reveals the awesome reality that the LORD knows exactly where you are, and the LORD never lost track of you. Oh there is the language of the LORD seeking after and searching for the house of Israel, and there is the language of the LORD going into and going among the nations of the earth that He might find and rescue His flock, however, one of the most powerful truths we can encounter within these chapters is that the LORD never lost track of His sheep, nor did He ever lose track of His flock. The LORD has never and will never lose track of his flock, and the LORD can never and will never be unaware of where they are—even if they themselves feel lost and have no idea where they are. The flock of God and the sheep of His pasture might not have any idea where they are, or where they have come, and yet the truth of the matter is the LORD has never lost track of you, and the LORD is not somehow unaware of where you are. Oh, you might very well think that the LORD has lost track of your location, and that the LORD somehow needs to be told where you are, and yet the truth of the matter is that when the LORD seeks after and searches you out, the LORD doesn’t need to ask for directions, and the LORD doesn’t need to consult with man.
THE LORD DOESN’T NEED TO CONSULT WITH MAN TO DISCOVER YOUR LOCATION! THE LORD DOES NOT NEED TO CONFER WITH MAN IN ORDER TO BEGIN THE PROCESS OF SEARCHING FOR YOU! Perhaps one of the most powerful examples of this is found in the Old Testament book of Genesis when you read the narrative of Hagar who was the mistress of Abraham whom they undoubtedly brought forth out of the midst of the land of Egypt. We know from the Old Testament book of Genesis that there were two times when Hagar gave herself to flight from the house of her master, and from the house of his master’s wife. After Hagar was given unto Abraham to be his wife, and after Hagar had conceived as a result of her union with Abraham, she began to be despised in the eyes of her master’s wife. As a direct result of this, Hagar would flee from the house of Abraham and from the house of her master because of the mistreatment of her master’s wife. What is so incredibly wonderful and powerful about this is when you think about and consider the fact that even when Hagar fled into the desert and wilderness the LORD knew exactly where she was, and the angel of the LORD would call unto her, would speak unto her, and would instruct her to return unto Abraham and to the house of her master. What makes the narrative of Hagar all the more captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that Hagar would flee from the house of her master a second time with the exception of this second time being that she didn’t flee alone, for by this time she would have given birth to Ishmael who was born unto her and Abraham. Scripture reveals how Hagar left the boy in a certain place and removed herself from him, as she could not bear to watch him die. What is truly astonishing and beautiful, however, is how the angel of the LORD not only knew where Hagar was, but also knew where the boy was. The angel of the LORD would instruct Hagar to take up the young lad, for the LORD would be with him that He might make of him a great nation and people. How absolutely powerful it is to think about and consider the fact that both times Hagar fled and ran from the house of her master the LORD knew right where she was, and the LORD had not abandoned, neglected, forgotten or forsaken her.
I sit here this morning thinking about and considering this awesome and wonderful reality, and I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth that the LORD knew right where the house of Israel was in the midst of the nations and countries into which they had been scattered, and the LORD would visit them right where they were. The LORD didn’t need to, nor would He invite them to a certain and specific place that He might bring them forth from the midst of those nations and countries, for the LORD would visit them right where they were. The LORD knew where His people were, and the LORD knew precisely where they had been scattered, and it would be in those places the LORD would visit them. The LORD would visit His people there in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans would speak the language of rescue and resurrection as the two would be intrinsically linked and connected. It would be there in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, and there in the midst of the nations and countries into which they had been scattered the LORD would raise them from death to life once more, and from that place of resurrection would bring them forth out of that land would bring them into their own land. The LORD would visit the house of Israel in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, and the LORD would resurrect them in that place of death that they might live again. Although the house of Israel had been buried in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, and although they had been buried for seventy years, the LORD would and could still bring about a great resurrection there in the midst of the land, and would cause them to live again. What we must realize and recognize is that the children of Israel didn’t begin to live again when they returned unto the land which was sworn unto their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but rather, they began to live again in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans. It would be there in the land of their captivity and exile the LORD would visit them and raise them from death to life that He might bring them forth an exceeding great army. Oh, it was true that they wouldn’t emerge from the land of the Chaldeans with as great a number as they had when they emerged from the land of Egypt, however, the LORD would bring forth from the midst of the land of the Chaldeans an exceeding great army that would be able to return unto the land of Israel, and once more inhabit and dwell in the midst of it.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close, I feel it is absolutely necessary to draw your attention to and leave you with the words which are found in the thirty-seventh chapter of this prophetic book. In all reality, the words which are found in this chapter are some of those most well-known words in all of Scripture, for almost any and every student of Scripture knows the prophetic narrative of the valley of dry bones. If you think about and consider the prophetic book of Ezekiel you will almost always think of it in terms of this chapter and Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, and the LORD’s instruction unto Ezekiel to prophesy unto the dry bones. In all reality, I would dare say that the words which are found in the thirty-seventh chapter have become synonymous with the prophetic book of Ezekiel, for most people will immediately and automatically think of this chapter and this vision when considering the book of Ezekiel. When we speak about this rescue and resurrection of the people of Israel from the midst of the land of their captivity, and from the nations and countries into which they had been scattered, we must think about and consider the words which are found in this chapter, for the words and language found within it directly speaks to this reality of resurrection in the land of the Chaldeans, as the LORD would visit His people, would raise them from death to life, and would bring this people who had just been given new life out of those nations and countries they had been scattered to, and bring them into their own land once more. Once the seventy years prophesied and spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah had been completed the LORD would visit His people, and would bring them forth from the midst of those nations and countries, and would restore them unto their own land. With this in mind, I leave you with the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:
“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O LORD God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the LORD God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breath upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto the, Thus saith the LORD God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves. And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:1-14).