January 20, 2008 ~ Winbourne Park Long Term Care Centre


“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Jesus, the Messiah


Ezekiel was a prophet of God who lived in Babylon during the exile, about 500 years before Jesus’ birth. He is known today primarily for three prophecies:


i) The valley of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37)

ii) Gog, ruler of Magog, leading the world against Israel (Ezekiel 38-39)

iii) The design of the new temple and the practice of worship within it (Ezekiel 40-44)


But Ezekiel also spoke of many other things as God led him, one of which was a condemnation of the leaders of Israel. In this prophecy, Ezekiel condemns these leaders for taking advantage of the sheep that God had entrusted to their care. In response to their lack of care, God said through Ezekiel that He would Himself become the shepherd of the people of Israel


Ezekiel 34:1-16 ESV ~ The word of the LORD came to me:  (2)  "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?  (3)  You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.  (4)  The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.  (5)  So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.  (6)  My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.  (7)  "Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  (8)  As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep,  (9)  therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  (10)  Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.  (11)  "For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.  (12)  As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.  (13)  And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country.  (14)  I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.  (15)  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD.  (16)  I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.


Although Ezekiel was directly addressing the leaders of his day, he was also speaking of a time in the future when God Himself would take upon Himself the role of shepherd of Israel; indeed, all the lost of mankind. This prophecy would be fulfilled through the life and ministry, on Earth and in Heaven, of Jesus, the Messiah. Here are Jesus’ own words as He speaks to the crowds following him one day in Judea:


John 10:1-16 ESV ~ "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.  (2)  But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  (3)  To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  (4)  When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  (5)  A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."  (6)  This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.  (7)  So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  (8)  All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  (9)  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  (10)  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  (11)  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  (12)  He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  (13)  He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  (14)  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  (15)  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  (16)  And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.


In comparing Himself to the Jewish leaders of His day Jesus says that while they were thieves and robbers who would run in fear at any threat, He “came that [the sheep] may have life and have it abundantly.”  Psalm 23 gives us an idea of what kind of life Jesus is referring to when He says that He will give us life more abundant.


Psalm 23:1-6 ESV ~ The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  (2)  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.  (3)  He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  (4)  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  (5)  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  (6)  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


When Jesus speaks of more abundant life He is not just talking about livening up an otherwise dreary January. He is not saying that because of Him our cars will be more fun to drive and that our homes will be more pleasant to live in. He is saying that because of Him our lives would be worth living. Both Ezekiel and Jesus speak of the sheep being lost and in need of rescue, which was a figure of speech for saying that they were dead in their sins and that there was no one to teach them right from wrong. You will remember that in the Garden of Eden man had been created to enjoy fellowship with God, and that because of man’s rebellion that fellowship was broken and mankind became strangers to God. In other words, man was no longer what he was created to be, and he could no longer enjoy what he had been created to enjoy.


Jesus came to fix that. He came to make it so that man could once again be what God had created him to be, and so that man could once again enjoy the fellowship with God that he had been created to enjoy. Jesus came to restore us to our position as people designed to enjoy God. That doesn’t just mean that our lives here and now are lived for God, as they should have been all along, but that live becomes even better in eternity for those who love Jesus.