Today you should read: Ezekiel 34
Two summers in college I worked as a camp counselor at Camp Vesper Point, just north of Chattanooga TN. As is the Christian camp way, we gave out awards at the end of the week for stand-out kids. The biggest honor of the week was the “I’m third” award (i.e. God first, others second, I’m third). The “I’m third” award went to the kid that evidenced a walk with Jesus and consistently sought to put others first—at mealtime, during events and activities, cleaning the cabins as a daily chore.
As I was reading Ezekiel 34, one New Testament passage stood out in particular as well as those days back at Vesper Point. The Apostle Peter had denied Jesus three times, then after the resurrection on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?” John 21 records the encounter—three times Jesus asks the question, Peter emphatically affirms that he does, then Jesus responded each of the three times, “Feed my sheep.” But, what does it mean to feed my sheep? Ezekiel 34 provides the answer.
The New Bible Dictionary sums Ezekiel 34 up well in the definition of “Shepherd,”
“One of the most solemn chapters in the OT is the denunciation of the faithless shepherds in Ezk. 34 (cf. Je. 23:1–4, and even more sternly Je. 25:32–38). These, for their belly’s sake, have fed themselves and not their sheep; they have killed and scattered their charges for their own profit; they have grievously neglected their proper pastoral care; therefore God will re-gather the sheep and judge the shepherds. He will in fact appoint one shepherd (Ezk. 34:23).
In the NT it is Christ’s mission to be Shepherd, even Chief Shepherd (Heb. 13:20 and 1 Pet. 2:25; also 1 Pet. 5:4). This is worked out in detail in Jn. 10, which merits detailed comparison with Ezk. 34. John’s main points are: the iniquity of those who ‘creep, and intrude and climb into the fold’; the using of the door as a mark of the true shepherd; the familiarity of the sheep with the voice of their appointed leader (modern shepherds in the East use precisely the same methods); the teachings regarding the Person of Christ, who is likened to the door (Eastern shepherds frequently slept right across the ‘door’ or opening in the fold wall); likened to the good shepherd, but contrasted with the worthless hireling. John stresses also the relationship of Christ, his followers and God; the bringing into the ‘one flock’ of the ‘other sheep’ (v. 16); and the rejection of those who are not the true sheep of Christ.”
The call of a shepherd is to live “third.” Jesus is the Great Shepherd and no one exhibited the “I’m third” lifestyle better. Ezekiel 34 shows the bitter failings of shepherd, but we see these same failings in leaders everywhere, even in our day. Jesus commissioned Peter to tend his sheep, but that call has been passed on to pastors and lay church leaders ever since.
If you lead in any area of your life, you are called to be a shepherd there. To the extent that you actively seek the greatest good of those you lead first, you are successful. This is the biblical model of servant-leadership, but as we see today, we might call it shepherd-leadership. This is living “third” in your life.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate
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