Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 23-24 (Christ the King, 2011)
“Jesus is our Shepherd-King”
What makes a good king good? You may remember that the Lord warned Israel against having a king. He knew that earthly kings would tax their pocket books. He warned that earthly kings would take their sons to empirical wars. A scepter in the hands of a wicked king (and there were many), would selfishly seek only his own good. Many forsook the people and the Lord’s commands to satisfy their own folly. That pattern was only broken when “good” kings followed the Lord’s commands and sought the needs of the people that they served.
The main reason God warned Israel against having a king was that HE was their king and desired to be so. King David, in spite of his many sins was good king. He had a desire to serve God and to be faithful to his commands. He was also a picture, or type, of Christ for Israel. David was both a shepherd and a king. As David, but in complete perfection, Jesus is our Shepherd-King.
He Rescued His Straying Flock
Ezekiel mentions the “flock which had been scattered on a day of clouds and darkness –” In those days, kings and people together had run away from the light of the Temple to the darkness of idols and evil behavior. Those who were supposed to be shepherding ignored the flocks. Those who were supposed to be governing for the good of people were leading them to a worldly darkness.
“On a day of clouds and darkness –” Spiritually, that is every day for people like us. God lights a lamp for us to see us his way; and we choose to run into the darkness anyway. As Isaiah had said “We all like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). We go astray when God commands us to fear, love and trust in him above all things, and we choose to lean on our own understanding, trust our own instincts, and love our own selfish wants. We go astray when God commands us to take his name seriously while we willfully toss it into the word salad of our filthy language. We go astray when God commands and invites to his Word yet our laziness seeks to avoid it and our discontent chooses to spite it with our own thinking. What shepherd would desire to rescue such rebellious sheep like us! The Lord has every right to leave us in our own darkness and cast us away from his presence for eternity.
Not our Shepherd-King! The Shepherd-King “searches and looks after the sheep.” He seeks to “gather us from the countries — and to have us lie down in good pastures.” The Shepherd puts his life in danger as he rescues the sheep from the mouth of the wolves and lions. The King puts his life in danger as he goes out to the battle field ahead of his armies to protect his people from the foe. In the same way, Jesus our Shepherd-King seeks us out, places his life in danger, and gathers his flock with his willing sacrifice. Christ Jesus chased into our darkness and rescued us from our own self-inflicted guilt. He destroyed the wolf, our wicked foe, by fighting that battle against evil for us. He laid his life on the line for his sheep when he sat in darkness on the cross. He dashed the darkness of death by taking his life back up again! Jesus our Shepherd-King, rather than casting us from his presence gathers us with his redeeming love and keeps us safely in his gracious pastures.
He Reigns With Justice
“I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy.” Jesus had said “I did not come for the righteous but the unrighteous — and it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.”
Our Shepherd-King reigns with justice. He will always keep his word and promises. He will not ever compromise his judgments. He will always be fair. Jesus does not despite a broken and contrite heart. He will always forgive the sins of those who trust in him for salvation and confess their sins before him.
He will not, however, put up with arrogance of those who put their trust in their own efforts to save themselves. Many will have the appearance of good on the outside. But God can and does read hearts. Our Shepherd-King will not have his redeeming efforts be mocked by those who wish to be saved by their own deeds. “I will shepherd my flock with justice.”
He Restores us With a Loving Voice
Be glad our Shepherd-King “does not treat us as our sins deserve”! (Psalm 103:10). As Jesus described the difference between the shepherd and the hired hand, “the sheep hear my voice and I know them” (John 10). The Lord promised: “I will tend them in a good pasture — they will feed in rich pastures.” “I the Lord have spoken.” And he speaks with tender voice to his people.
There are many voices out there calling us away from our Shepherd-King. Hired hands who ran away at the face of danger still seek to lead us off the safety of God’s mountain. The darkness calls us back daily. Temptations all too familiar speak appealing words. The wicked foe, the prowling lion, haunts us with guilt and the lure of attainable desires. Those are dangerous voices. They are not the voice of the Shepherd-King.
Our Shepherd-King knows the dangers that plague his flock — the Church. He knows the enemies that surround his city the Church. He defeated them on the cross so that they would have no power over us. When we are lost in darkness he shows us the Lamp for our feet. When we are broken and bruised he heals our wounds. He will strengthen us when we are weak. He will not despise a broken and contrite heart. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us all of our sins.”
The best way for a sheep to recognize his true shepherd is to stay close to him and hear his Voice often. He has provided safety for us in his Kingdom. He wants us to remain familiar with his Voice by feeding on that rich pasture of his Holy Word. Silly sheep like us don’t always know what is good and best for us. The sinfulness in our nature sheepishly shies from that Word because of what it says to our sinful nature.
I have noticed this concept with our dog. Every time I come home he is suspect of me. He barks a little, turns face down when I reach to pet him and remains guarded. Then he remembers who I am; that I feed him, I haven’t done anything harm him, I take him for walks, I allow him the safety of my home, and he is safe when lying at my feet. He warms up and responds to my voice. Although now it takes much less time, we have to go through that process every time I come through the door!
Our Shepherd-King knows what is best for us. He has never done anything to harm. He feeds us spiritually and physically. He provides us the safety of our home and His. He calls out to us with his Word. The deeper we grown in his Word — his Voice — the more we warm up to his tender care. Yes, he is a mighty King with justice and power. Yes we are tempted to be guarded in our approach. But when he hear his Voice often we learn that he is a tender Shepherd who does nothing but care for us his sheep with an unconditional love.
What makes a good king good? A Shepherd who cares more for his sheep than his own safety and A King who does what is right in the sight of God. Jesus is perfectly both. He loves us. He has gathered us to his heavenly fold — a kingdom whose ruler is kind and loving. As each day he tends us like a Shepherd, we look forward to the day when Christ our King will bring us across the mote of death and into his palace of eternal grace in heaven. Amen.
A sermon posted with permission of Michael Helwig