Friday, April 21, 2006

The Shepherds' Performance Review

God grades out the shepherds of Israel through his prophet Ezekiel. And they do not receive favorable marks.

"The word of the Lord came to me: 'Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not the shepherds take care of the flock?"'" (Ezekiel 34:1-2).

Ezekiel was serving a community of 10,000 people who had been uprooted from their home in Jerusalem and marched 700 miles away. They were living as exiles near the Kebar River near Babylon, and they must have wondered, "What did we do that was so bad? Why did we get taken away while others got to stay home? Why not previous generations? Were we that bad?"

God wants them to understand that this punishment is not for the sins of one generation. There has been a pattern of disobedience, disloyalty and dishonor. And, as the old saying goes, the fish stinks from the head down. God had trusted the shepherds of Israel with the tremendous responsibility of leading his people, and they had done a terrible job. Disaster came upon the people of God because of a massive failure in their leadership.

Specifically, God brings three charges against the shepherds of Israel: (1) the abuse of power; (2) the compromise of truth; (3) the neglect of God.

I think it's interesting that he chose those three charges. The leaders of Israel were certainly guilty of a number of violations -- multiple wives, blatant immorality and sinful behavior. Why do you think God would focus in on these three charges?