“Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd.”
– Ezekiel 34:23 NASB
Ezekiel was one of ancient Israel’s prophets. He was roughly contemporaneous with the prophet Daniel, meaning that they lived around and after 586 B.C. when Israel was conquered by, and largely exiled to, Babylon. Israel was short on hope in those days, and the prophets were sent by God to not only preach repentance to the people but also to give them hope. The most common hope given by the prophets was the hope of Messiah. Every prophet made at least some reference to his coming, and our verse today is one of Ezekiel’s references to him.
Each of Israel’s prophets had his own unique personality – just as you and I do – and so their writings display the varieties of their personalities. When they repeated God’s promise of Messiah, they did not usually repeat the statements of earlier prophets. They did, however, repeat themes and certain key words. Therefore, almost every prophecy sounded familiar and new at the same time.
In this promise from God, Ezekiel is using imagery familiar to Israelites – that of a shepherd leading sheep. Ancient kings were seen as shepherds of their respective kingdoms. Thus Israelites would know that Ezekiel was probably speaking about the same great future leader that Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others had promised.
When Ezekiel prophesies of this great shepherd to come, the reference to David means that Messiah will be a descendant of David – an “encore” of David’s life. Only this time, the sword being wielded was the sword of Messiah’s mouth, for He would be a man of peace in contrast with His ancestor David who was a man of war.
The reference to “one” shepherd would remind Israelites that their kingdom had been divided – between north and south – contributing to their downfall. Messiah would reunite them, making them strong.
Most interestingly, this shepherd would “feed them himself” – a point that would really come home when, centuries later, Jesus would call Himself “the true bread out of heaven.” Our souls are fed every time we think about how He lived and died for us.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
O Jesus, Great Shepherd of humanity, lead us today to do what is right. And in doing so, let us be humble and gentle as You were on the earth. Let our steps be sure, and our direction constant…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.