Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘This is what the Lord God says: “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should the shepherds not feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you searched for the lost; but with force and with violence you have dominated them. They scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every animal of the field and scattered. My flock strayed through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.”’”
Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: “As I live,” declares the Lord God, “certainly, because My flock has become plunder, and My flock has become food for all the animals of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: ‘This is what the Lord God says: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them stop tending sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will save My sheep from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them.”’”

Ezekiel 34:1-10

The prophet Ezekiel, receiving a revelation from the Lord, declared that the leaders of God’s people had stopped leading and had begun abusing the people for whom they were responsible. Rather than protectors, they had become predators. Beyond just merely being sustained by the flock, they were fattened by it.

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near Jesus to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to complain, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
And so He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the other ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he puts it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

Luke 15:1-7

The scribes, who copied the books of scripture and memorized them, becoming lawyers of the holy texts, and the Pharisees, a sect who professed reform and a more pure religion, criticized Jesus for teaching people who needed to have a better understanding of God’s will and who were in violation of His laws. The hypocrisy is deeper than personal self-righteousness. These leaders of the people, the theologians of their day, were so high and mighty that they only saw their own countrymen as failures to be ignored, rather than brothers in need.

Why would anyone become a prostitute? There is a very simple answer: money. Jesus spent time with prostitutes, not because they were loose women with bad morals but because they were desperate women with a spiritual sickness. The tax collectors of Jesus’ time worked for the Roman occupiers, something seen as a great moral failing. But why did they work for the Romans? Because they were desperate.

Did the rich Scribes and Pharisees employ the poor men and women? Did they see to their welfare out of charity? Did they give of their wealth in any meaningful way to help their brothers and sisters? As much as the Scribes and Pharisees put on a performance of morality and superior piety, they did not practice it! (Matthew 23, Mark 7:1-11)

Then and now, poverty is a lack of cash and not a lack of character. I have a preacher friend who always locks his truck doors, not because people are evil but because “it’s better to keep an honest boy honest than give him an opportunity to do wrong.” Can we reduce desperation in some way? Can we go out and find the one lost and restore him to the ninety-nine? Or will we get fat on the flock?

Then I will appoint over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the Lord have spoken.

Ezekiel 34:23-24

The Good Shepherd tends to the weak, the broken and the ill. He goes after the lost. Let us be like Him.

Ethan Kirl

Originally Published December 29, 2021