Are we FAITHFUL and RESPONSIBLE as GOD’s SHEPHERDS? “Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.’” (Ezek. 34:2-5)
Shepherds play an important role throughout the scriptures particularly after the occupation of Abel is described as a "keeper of sheep" (Gen. 4:2), and Jacob (Israel) introduces himself as a shepherd to Pharaoh (Gen. 47:3). Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law when God appeared to him in a burning bush and commissioned him to lead the Israelites from Egypt. From David, the shepherd boy who became the first king of Israel, to Jesus Christ, who said of Himself, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), the shepherd represents one who loves and cares for his flock just as a leader or ruler cares for those under his charge!
A good shepherd would feed his flock, nurse the weak and sick sheep, search after the lost sheep, guide his flock with love, and protect his sheep from wild animals. That is the reason why God exhorts leaders to be ‘shepherds’ to their people. The self-sacrificing life of Jesus provides the perfect blueprint for making a good shepherd and leader. In this context, the civil and religious leaders of Israel were expected to shepherd the nation by feeding them, uniting them, and protecting them from enemies. But Israel’s leaders had instead exploited their flock in order to feed themselves, had scattered their flock, and had failed to protect their flock from danger. Instead of feeding their flock, they had fed themselves (v. 2) and had clothed themselves with the wool of their sheep (v. 3). As a result of neglect and abuse, their sheep had become totally scattered (vv. 5, 6).
The famous theologian Yates in his book 'Preaching' has described this situation well: "A heart-rending picture is painted of the unfaithful preachers of Ezekiel’s day. The flock is scattered, untended and hungry while selfish shepherds pamper themselves and loll in idleness and luxury without any thought of their responsibility. They are careful to look out for their own food and clothing and comfort but no one else is to be considered for a minute”. These ‘shepherds’ (or, rulers) of Israel had thus been guilty of seeking only personal gain (vv. 3–8). The saddest part was that even though the sheep are scattered, no one was concerned, and no one searched for them! The people of Israel were thus like sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36).
The sentence of judgment was pronounced by God upon these evil ‘shepherds’ (v. 10) since they had put their own interests above those of the people, had ruled brutally and had allowed the people to become scattered. So God said He would judge these wicked rulers and remove them from their positions of power. Only Christ was the Good Shepherd (John 10:1–16), who would ultimately bring His sheep back “to their own land” (vv. 12, 13). As the Good Shepherd, Christ exemplified His love by laying down his life for His sheep. All His apostles of Christ including Apostle Paul (see Acts 20) had followed Christ’s example of faithful shepherding!