These chapters are full of promises of a future salvation – one which we can’t help but see echoed in Jesus. Chapter 34 denounces the ‘false shepherds’ who lead Israel – concerned only with what they can get from the flock, how they can eat the sheep for which they will not trouble to care.
My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them. (34:6)
For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. (34:11-12)
I think the Pharisees probably heard the echoes in Luke 15: 1-7. Add to that a later bit of the chapter,
I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall be their shepherd. (34:23)
…and Luke 15 does start to look like a pretty clear claim on Jesus’ part!
But with this there’s a warning, too. Chapter 33:30-33 puts a bit of a damper on Ezekiel’s hopes for ministry. Even when his audience applaud, says the LORD, they will not listen. They are enjoying the performance, but have no more intention of acting on God’s words through Ezekiel than they would act on the words of a love song beautifully sung. It’s another form of entertainment, really.
How often do we fall into the same trap – of hearing a Bible passage, or a sermon, or reading something which challenges us, even which moves us emotionally with a sense that we could be better – but once the moment has passed, we do nothing to act upon it?
Perhaps a good resolution for this week would be to think of one thing we’ve seen about God or about ourselves that inspires us to change – and not to rest until we’ve done something about it.