Week of September 18

Is There a Soul Doctor in the House?

Read: Ezekiel 33-35; Revelation 18
“I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.”
Ezekiel 34:25-26, ESV


We use an expression, “It’s a zoo out there,” to refer to circumstances that are out of control. We seek order amid disorder! Ezekiel decried the “zoo” in his day and comes to the rescue today for our weary hearts. Israel had a Wild West morality, but God knew that the fullness of blessings in the land of such wealth would require adherence to His rule of law. Really? Some may wonder, “Why shouldn’t I be able to get all that I can get out of this life, even if it means getting it from the weakest around me?” Why is God’s way so important? Let me explain.

Understanding the Bible Context

Mutual covenant responsibility
We will notice that both Israel’s leaders and the people fell beneath God’s judgment (vv. 1-6; “shepherds” = leaders). Both groups had failed to honor the requirements of the Mosaic covenant. Their disobedience placed in jeopardy the earlier Abrahamic covenant blessing of dwelling in the Promised Land. Notice what God confronted then and how similar it was to our contemporary context.
There was disregard for the value of human life (34:4; cf. Matthew 25:41-46). This indifference for human life led to the scattering of the people (34:5; cf. Matthew 9:36). The leaders also practiced an oppressive style of leadership where they used the people to satisfy their own self-interests (34:4c, 8, “harshness” = severity; cf. John 10:7-10; “will be saved”). The social and spiritual circumstances, then and now, resemble ever-widening circles of despair.

Such attitudes and actions toward people show the ultimate rejection of God’s creative order and the value He places upon each human life (Genesis 1;26-28; “image of God”). Ezekiel has shown us the actions and results of such a broken worldview. Do you see how their pledge to honor God’s covenant with them was compromised by their treatment of others that were made in His image?
God will counter all of the evil that humankind has perpetrated upon one another. He will gather His wandering sheep (34:11; John 10:3, 16, “hear my voice”). He will bring them into their own land (34:13; cf. John 10:9). He will be their shepherd (34:15; cf. John 10:7, 11; “I am the good shepherd). God, the good shepherd, will protect His sheep (34:22; cf. John 10;10). He will judge between the sheep and the goats (cf. Matthew 25).
God’s peace plan
Ezekiel lays out before us a vision of the peace covenant that would be established (34:25-31; cf. 37:26-28; 38:11-13). It would be inaugurated after all of God’s other covenants had been fulfilled. All foreign nations would be removed from the land (34:25). Israel would be blessed with “showers of blessings,” meaning that the land would produce its bounty (34:26-27a, 29a). The people would live in complete security (34:27b-29; cf. chapters 38-39). The people would know that He is truly their God when He delivers them from all of their oppressors (34:27c; cf. Revelation 18).
This would ultimately be realized in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:6; EBC). This idyllic picture of harmony within all creation will come not because of the worship of nature, as some practice today, but from reverence for the Lord. What secular humankind pursues zealously and fails to grasp will be given by grace when God’s Shepherd ascends the throne and assumes His reign (34:23-24)!

Applying the Passage to Our Lives

The search is on in the Ashlock household for a new primary care physician for moi, meaning Larry! You know the routine. Is the physician’s practice open? Is he/she in our insurance network? Is the doctor’s office within a reasonable driving range? I also seek an answer to a deeper question like, “Is this doctor well qualified?” I certainly do not want to become victimized in any way.
Ah! There is a flip side to the situation. I will admit that I most often do not consider my responsibility in the physician-patient dyad! Physicians do not want to be exploited by their patients. What? Is Larry accountable? Seriously, relationships by their nature require moral accountability. OK!

So where do we turn for insight in how to behave responsibly? Christians understand and accept their responsibility in the world to honor Jesus Christ by submitting to His authority and by respecting His creation and others. If we take Jesus seriously (authority) then we will behave accordingly.

Consider the following:
“If the church [Christians] is functioning as it should, it will continually and very earnestly engage in a search for authoritative direction and insight concerning its character and its conduct. It will desire above all else to know and to live out the answer to the prophet’s question, ‘What does the LORD require?’ (Mic 6:8), recognizing that the question needs to be asked again and again, rather than once and for all” (Stassen and Gushee, Kingdom Ethics).
A direct point of application: Jesus is our soul and life doctor. We may see from this passage that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) came to shepherd the lost sheep and to save them (34:22, 28-29b). He would be prophet, priest, and king, and He would usher in a new and lasting kingdom where the sheep would receive the care that they deserved (see Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 37:24-25; Hosea 3:5). When Jesus declared that He was the “Good Shepherd,” He likely had Ezekiel 34 in mind (cf. John 10:14).
He has been given all authority by the Heavenly Father. He declared that He was the true and righteous shepherd that Ezekiel had described, and that He would lay down His life for the sheep (cf. the New Covenant; 34:25-31). Jesus was no rural hayseed who burst onto the geo-political stage in 30 A.D. His role as Shepherd had been conceived in the counsels of God from all eternity and we must know that this is God’s answer to our deepest needs.
We honor our covenant responsibilities by following Him as He commands. The American humorist Will Rogers once said, “A fool and his money are soon elected.” Sadly, his satirical humor has proved to be true all too often. Our Leader, Jesus Christ, stands both above and in direct contrast to the limited leadership choices that we have in our generation.

He stepped onto the human stage of world history with hardly a denarius to His name. Rather than enriching Himself at the expense of humanity, He poured out Himself in our behalf (cf. Isaiah 53). As Paul writes, “for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Ezekiel’s words call you and me today to model this type of leadership in our homes, church, and communities. Choose to become Christ’s lights in a weak and weary world (Philippians 2:15).

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. “It’s my way or the highway” has become the mantra for many who seek to pave their own path to riches and success by using the lives of innocents around them. You may be bowed down by oppression now, but God’s justice will ultimately prevail. Cry out to Him in your need because He hears your prayers.

2. For Families: It may still be warm enough for your children to enjoy playing outside with a sprinkler. Invite your children to don their bathing suits, drape a sprinkler hose over a tree limb, and let the children use umbrellas and different size buckets to enjoy the showers! Pretend that it is raining, and hear their squeals of delight!

When they have dried off, share with them that God sends us showers of blessing when we walk in His ways. Sometimes we get to be His blessings for other people too. We are blessings when we love, honor, respect, and obey God first, and then eagerly help others too, because we love God so much. Encourage your children to think of some ways they can be a blessing to someone in your neighborhood, church, or school this week.Then help them to shower their blessings!
May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock