Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies - Ezekiel, Israel and the End Times
Ezekiel 34 P2 - The regathering of Israel and the coming true shepherd
by I Gordon
We saw in the first study on Ezekiel 34 that the leaders of Israel didn't care for the sheep. And the sheep looked to these shepherds instead of the true Shepherd, the Lord Jesus. This was a problem in Ezekiel's day, Jesus' day, the church age and in the coming 'day of Jacob's trouble'. But despite the inadequacies and failures of man, there is One who works all things for good. He is One who does give up, give in or let go. This is the One that is spoken of in the remaining verses in Ezekiel 34. He is the coming true Shepherd.
The true Shepherd doesn't let go!
Ezekiel 34:11-16 'For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. (12) As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. (13) I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. (14) I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. (15) I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. (16) I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
In the last study we noted the attributes, or lack thereof, in false shepherds. We saw that they were greedy for their own gain and cared not for the sheep. But what a contrast we see with the true Shepherd discussed here! Everything the false shepherds didn't do, the true Shepherd does do... and more! In the context of Ezekiel 34 these promises are directed towards the nation of Israel that has been judged and dispersed amongst the nations. Yet we read with thankfulness and gratitude that despite Israel's sin and unfaithfulness, the Sovereign Lord will still be true to His Name and His promises made. He will seek out the lost. He searches for those scattered. Can you remember when Jesus gave the parable of the lost sheep in which He said that the true shepherd will even leave the ninety nine to find the one that had wandered off? Well here it is being played out prophetically. The Lord Jesus will go after the lost and scattered sheep from the nation of Israel in the last days. He will bring back the strays, bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.
But these promises are as sure for the believer today as they are for Israel in the future, for the heart of the Shepherd never changes. These promises come in the form of a series of 'I wills' that show the wonder of our great Shepherd.
Moody outlines these great promises of the Shepherd to the sheep as follows:
Vs. 11. I will search them and seek them out.
Vs. 12. I will deliver them.
Vs. 13. I will bring them out.
Vs. 13. I will gather them together.
Vs. 13. I will bring them in.
Vs. 14. I will feed them.
Vs. 15. I will cause them to lie down.
Vs. 16. I will bind up the broken.
Vs. 16. I will strengthen the sick.
The Lord Jesus does this in the lives of believers today and when He returns at the rapture for His bride, all of these things will be ultimately complete once and for all!
J. Vernon McGee writes well on these 'I wills' saying 'The thing that impresses us in the rest of this chapter is the repetition of a wonderful statement by God, "I will," which occurs eighteen times in verses Ezek 34:11 through Ezek 34:29. I get a little weary listening to men speak of what they have done. This is a new note here—God says, "I will." This is grace when God says this. The Good Shepherd one day said, "Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28). The Shepherd also said, "I will give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish …" (John 10:28). That is what my wonderful Shepherd said."
Are you currently burdened and weighed down with the trials and problems of this life? Read again of the Shepherd above who is in the corner of all those that have repented and given their lives to Him. In the New Testament He is called the 'Good' Shepherd, the 'Great' Shepherd and the 'Chief' Shepherd. He is trust worthy. What a wonderful Shepherd we have!
Judgment at the end of the age
Ezekiel 34:17-22 'As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. (18) Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? (19) Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet? (20) 'Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. (21) Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, (22) I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another..
When Bible teachers speak of the nation of Israel being saved in the last days, some have a problem with this thinking that God has a different means of salvation for the Jews and Gentiles. This is not true. All salvation comes through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus. It is His blood that was shed for Jews and Gentiles alike. This is no different means of salvation but there are different promises and plans given to the Church and Israel. In the current age, in terms of salvation, there is neither 'Jew nor Greek' in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28). Yet, at the same time, there are many promises given by God for that the nation of Israel, chosen by God, that still need to be fulfilled at the end of this age. The Apostle Paul spoke of this future plan for the nation of Israel saying:
Romans 11:25-29 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. (26) And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. (27) And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." (28) As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, (29) for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.
When it says that 'all Israel will be saved' it should be understood to be that believing remnant of the nation that is preserved through the tribulation which believes in, and looks to, the Lord Jesus - the One that they pierced. (Zech 12:10). They still need, in faith, to acknowledge the Lord Jesus as their Messiah before this believing remnant will be saved (Matt 23:37-39) The prophet Zechariah tells us that it will only be one third of the Israelite nation 'in the land' that are refined and brought through the fires of the tribulation. (Zech 13:8-9) This is the 'All Israel' of Romans 11:26. In like manner, we read here in Ezekiel of the judgment that will occur within the nation of Israel at the end of the age. Just as the Lord will judge between the Gentiles at the time of His return (ie the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matt 25:31-46) so He shall also judge between the true and false sheep within the nation of Israel.
The Bible knowledge commentary sums it up saying "But how will God differentiate one from the other? The character of the sheep is seen in their conduct (Eze_34:17-21). The wicked sheep are those that follow the conduct of the shepherds, oppressing the weaker sheep. They trampled the pasturelands and even muddied the streams so that other sheep were left with less-than-desirable vegetation and drinking water. These fat sheep were successful in brutalizing the lean sheep. The wicked sheep even butted all the weak sheep with their horns, to drive them away. God will not permit these wicked practices to continue. Instead He will rescue the oppressed and will judge the aggressors. He will judge between one sheep and another (Ezek 34:22; cf. Ezek 34:17)."
The coming Davidic King
Ezekiel 34:23-26 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. (24) I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken. (25) 'I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests in safety. (26) I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.
But once the judgment is over and the true sheep within Israel are refined and call on the Messiah Jesus to come, so shall it be! The glories of the Messianic age will then shortly be seen. The rest of Ezekiel 34 speak of those days. In verses 23-26 we read of the coming true Shepherd - the Davidic King. Other Prophets also mention 'David' in those days such as:
Jeremiah 30:8-9 ' In that day,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them. (9) Instead, they will serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.
Hosea 3:4-5 For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. (5) Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.
Some see this as a literal resurrected king David who will reign again in the last days over Israel. And it certainly could be that David will play a role in the leadership of the Messianic Kingdom... but these verses are are more likely to be pointers to David's greater son - The Lord Jesus! The Jewish Rabbi's of old saw such passages as Messianic. The Jewish Christian, David Baron, writes "Even the Jews explained the name "David" in these passages as applying to the Messiah—the great Son of David in whom all the promises to the Davidic house are centered. Thus Kimchi, in his comment on Ezek 34:23, says: "My servant David—that is, the Messiah who shall spring from his seed in the time of salvation": and in the 24th verse of chapter 37 he observes: "The King Messiah—His name shall be called David because He shall be of the seed of David." And so practically all the Jewish commentators."
Notice also that at this time there will be a covenant of peace. This speaks of the New Covenant which involves peace with God and peace within one's soul. But ultimately it will also bring peace among the nations and peace within all of creation! Peace glorious peace! So it says above that God's sheep can lie in safety, free from the fear of all wild beasts. We can take this literally for the curse on the earth will be removed at this time and creation itself, including the animal kingdom, will be brought into the liberty in which it was first made. (Zech 14:11, Isa 11:6-9) But I think more that just literal beasts are in view here. When God surveys the great earthly kingdoms of the world throughout the ages in Daniel 7, He pictures them as beasts. In God's view, the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires are like beasts, wild beasts that ravage others... and they all preyed on Israel! But in the coming kingdom this will happen no more! At last, at long last, God's people will not be at threat by these wild beasts for all oppression will cease and true righteousness will reign under the true shepherd, the true King, the Lord Jesus.
The blessings of the coming Messianic Kingdom
Ezekiel 34:27-31 The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. (28) They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. (29) I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. (30) Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Sovereign LORD. (31) You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.' "
The glories of that day will even affect the produce of the land. Since the Lord restored the land of Israel to the Jews in 1948, He has blessed the land so that it is extremely abundant and productive. In fact, even this was seen as a clear sign of the end times. The famous Jewish Rabbi known as Rashi, who lived in the 11th century, wrote: “When the Land of Israel yields fruit abundantly, then the end is near, and there is no clearer indication of the end than this.” Today Israel exports flowers and fruit around the whole world! But even this is nothing compared to the glories still to come.
We read above that the trees of the field will yield its fruit and God will provide for them a land renowned for it's crops. Remember when the Israelite spies went into the land and saw the abundant fruit it contained? You may remember that it took two men and a pole to carry the grapes and figs!
Numbers 13:23 Then they came to the valley of Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs.
This is of course just a small limited pointer to what the Promised land will be like in that coming Messianic day. Truly it will be the Promised Land as God always said. Before that day comes however there is still a lot that must happen. Some of these prophetic events are contained in Ezekiel 35-39 which we shall look at next. Next stop is something that is showing itself very clearly in our day. Something called 'the everlasting hatred'.