After enjoying a vacation in the Smoky Mountains, I look forward to being back in Hillsdale’s pulpit this Sunday. We will return to our verse-by-verse study of the Gospel of John, taking up our study with the closing verses of John 9 and introducing one of the most beautiful and beloved passages of the Gospels… the Parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).
Knowing the shepherd is a metaphor for a spiritual leader and the sheep is a metaphor for God’s people throughout the scriptures, I invested several hours focusing on the role of the shepherd and his relationship with the sheep. In the Parable of the Good Shepherd we identify not only the character of the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ), we also see the evil characteristics of Israel’s spiritual leaders portrayed as “thieves and robbers” (John 10:8) and as the “hireling” who flees “and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:13).
Israel was cursed with spiritual shepherd’s like those described in John 10. When the nation needed shepherds to boldly declare the Word of the Lord and condemn the sins of the nation, she instead promoted men to be her pastors who not only failed to lead the nation spiritually, but also exploited her vulnerable state.
The prophet Jeremiah warned the “pastors” (spiritual shepherds) of Israel, “1Woe be unto the pastors [lit. shepherds] that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD…I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1-2).
Ezekiel prophesied “against the shepherds of Israel” (Ezekiel 34:1-2), condemning the spiritual leaders for putting their self-interests before the needs of the people (34:2). Israel’s pastors had taken the best of everything for themselves (34:3), neglected the weak and injured (34:4a), failed to seek the lost, pursued sinful pleasures, and failed to call God’s people to be a holy people (34:4). Israel had become an immoral, lawless nation and God determined to turn the nation and their shepherds over to be afflicted (Ezekiel 34:10). God, however, did not leave His people hopeless and promised them He would one day deliver them (Ezekiel 34:11-16).
The task of a faithful prophet is not a popular one and God warned Ezekiel he would become the object of scorn (Ezekiel 33). God challenged the prophet, “I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:7). Ezekiel was admonished, should he fail to warn the wicked in his sin and the wicked man “die in his iniquity”, the blood of the wicked would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8).
Ezekiel 33 closes with a malady that in my observation is present in fundamental churches and colleges of our day…a generation that is “talking against” the prophet, expressing a faux-piety of hearing “the word that cometh forth from the LORD” (33:30), and “with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (33:31). God warns Ezekiel, “they hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).
From a perspective of outward results, Ezekiel was a failure for Israel did not repent of her sins and her pastors continued in their wickedness. Ezekiel was promised, when God’s judgment falls upon Israel, all would “know that a prophet hath been among them” (Ezekiel 33:33).
The words of a faithful, prophetic (forth-telling), uncompromising preacher are not welcome in most pulpits and one need not look far in our churches, colleges, and seminaries to understand there are many who “hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32). I pray God might find me faithful and some “shall know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).
With a shepherd’s heart,
Pastor Travis D. Smith
Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith