Ezekiel 34:1. The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 2. `Son of man,
prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them, `Shepherds,
the Sovereign Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for the shepherds of Israel
who feed themselves! Are not shepherds meant to feed a flock? 3. Yet you have
fed on milk, you have dressed yourselves in wool, you have sacrificed the
fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock. 4. You have failed to make
weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the injured ones.
You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost. On the contrary, you
have ruled them cruelly and harshly.
For lack of a shepherd they have been scattered, to become the prey of all the
wild animals; they have been scattered. 6. My flock is astray on every mountain
and on every high hill; my flock has been scattered all over the world; no one
bothers about them and no one looks for them.
7. `Very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: 8. As I live, I swear it,
declares the Sovereign Yahweh, since my flock has been pillaged and for lack of
a shepherd is now the prey of every wild animal, since my shepherds have ceased
to bother about my flock, since my shepherds feed themselves rather than my
flock, 9. very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: 10. The Sovereign
Yahweh says this: Look, I am against the shepherds. I shall take my flock out of
their charge and henceforth not allow them to feed my flock. And the shepherds
will stop feeding themselves, because I shall rescue my sheep from their mouths
to stop them from being food for them.
11. `For the Sovereign Yahweh says this: Look, I myself shall take care of my
flock and look after it. 12. As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with
his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep. I shall rescue them from
wherever they have been scattered on the day of clouds and darkness. 13. I shall
bring them back from the peoples where they are; I shall gather them back from
the countries and bring them back to their own land. I shall pasture them on the
mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the inhabited parts of the
country. 14. I shall feed them in good pasturage; the highest mountains of
Israel will be their grazing ground. There they will rest in good grazing
grounds; they will browse in rich pastures on the mountains of Israel.
myself shall pasture my sheep, I myself shall give them rest, declares the
Sovereign Yahweh. 16. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray,
bandage the injured and make the sick strong. I shall watch over the fat and
healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.
`As for you, my sheep, the Sovereign Yahweh says this: I shall judge between
sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats. 18. Not content to drink the
clearest of the water, you foul the rest with your feet. 19. And my sheep must
graze on what your feet have trampled and drink what your feet have fouled.
20. Very well, the Sovereign Yahweh says this: I myself shall judge between the
fat sheep and the thin sheep. 21. Since you have jostled with flank and shoulder
and butted all the ailing sheep with your horns, until you have scattered them
outside, 22. I shall come and save my sheep and stop them from being victimised.
I shall judge between sheep and sheep.
23. `I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of
them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd. 24. I, Yahweh,
shall be their Elohim, and my servant David will be ruler among them. I, Yahweh,
have spoken. 25. I shall make a covenant of peace with them; I shall rid the
country of wild animals. They will be able to live secure in the desert and go
to sleep in the woods.
shall settle them round my hill; I shall send rain at the proper time; it will
be a rain of blessings. 27. The trees of the countryside will yield their fruit
and the soil will yield its produce; they will be secure on their soil. And they
will know that I am Yahweh when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them
from the clutches of their slave-masters.
No more will they be a prey to the nations, no more will the wild animals of the
country devour them. They will live secure, with no one to frighten them. 29. I
shall make splendid vegetation grow for them; no more will they suffer from
famine in the country; no more will they have to bear the insults of other
nations. 30. So they will know that I, their Elohim, am with them and that they,
the House of Israel, are my people, declares the Sovereign Yahweh.
And you, my sheep, are the flock of my human pasture, and I am your Elohim,
declares the Sovereign Yahweh.' "
Somebody finds out
you believe in Elohim and challenges you with a question: “If Elohim’s good and all-powerful, why does he
allow such evil in the world?” Maybe
you’ve been asked a question like this.
I have. People excuse their own
responsibility for evil by challenging Yahweh’s judgment. How do you apologize for (what seems to the
world as) Elohim’s lack of power and concern?
In today’s readings, Yahweh speaks of his judgment in very general and
symbolic terms, using shepherds, sheep and goats as symbols for the nations,
peoples and individuals he’ll ultimately judge. Let’s see what we can learn about his justice through these
In our text, Ezekiel
34, judgment begins with “shepherds.”
He says, (2) “Disaster is in store for the shepherds of Israel who feed
themselves!” By “shepherds,” he means
all in authority over his people, including principalities, powers, presidents,
prelates, patriarchs, pastors and pillars, religious and secular – all who
hold power will be judged – disaster will fall upon those found wanting. These powerful people have been allowed to
rule over the livestock of the great potentate. Many shepherds have used Yahweh’s sheep to their own profit and
gain or, out of their corruption and avarice, have led his sheep in directions
counter to his will. Many shepherds
never reported in. Many shepherds
mistakenly thought the sheep were theirs. Many shepherds are exploiters. Therefore Yahweh’s judgment begins with all kinds of shepherds and
authorities. He’ll judge in the future
as he has in the past. He’s judging the
shepherds right now, sorting good from bad.
Rams and Goats
Next, his judgment
turns to those who are in the shepherds’ care; Yahweh says: (17) “I shall judge
between rams and billygoats.” Now
Yahweh brings pack-leaders and bullies, rams and billys, to justice. Goats hang around with sheep, they look like
sheep, they graze like sheep. But goats
aren’t sheep. They don’t belong in the
fold; they never belonged there. Goats
are completely different than sheep.
I learned one of
the main differences between sheep and goats years ago on the farm. There were sheep in the pasture. My daughter was in the 4H club and she
showed charlaise goats. The
sheep and the goats mingled and grazed freely together. The first year the Chevrolet Cavalier came
out, I bought a new one. I was proud to
get up and go to work to show it off. I
went out the door toward the car and looked at the pasture. The sheep were there as usual – but where
were those five big goats? Why of
course, they were on the roof of my new car.
Sheep I know would never be so audacious as to challenge the authority
of their keeper! Goats aren’t good
for much in this country. We don’t eat
goat meat or harvest angora fur. I only
know one person that drinks goat milk.
When I was a boy, I was told that goats eat tin cans. I later learned it was untrue. But they’ll eat your shirts right off the clothesline. Do you know the old college song,
Bill Grogan’s goat was
Ate three red shirts from off the line.
Bill took a stick, gave him
And tied him to the railroad track.
The whistle blew -- the
train drew nigh.
Bill Grogan’s goat was
doomed to die.
He gave three groans of
coughed up the shirts and flagged the train.
Goats are smart, but men are smarter. One man I knew tied up some goats at the top
of his hillside with ropes just long enough to reach the bottom. After that, he didn’t have to mow that
hillside. Smart! But in Yahweh’s pastures, goats sneak in to
eat the limited provisions meant for sheep.
And Yahweh says that goats muddy the water meant for sheep. There’s a theological meaning in that if you
think about it. Anyway, Yahweh is my
shepherd; I shall not want. He’s
not my goatherd. And the
shepherd’s son gives his life for his sheep.
Yahshua Judges Goats
Yahshua understood judgment in terms of sheep and goats
Mat 25 (exc.) :31. `When the Son of man comes
in his glory with the angels, he will take his seat on his throne. [This is the judgment seat.] 32. All nations (eqnoi) will be assembled before him and he will separate them
one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. 33. He will place the sheep on his right
hand and the goats on his left.
Sheep and goats
are nations; the Son of Man prunes them out – the sheep nations on his
right gain his approval and the goat nations on his left do not. By knowing the nature of sheep and goats and
their inherent behavioral differences, Yahshua is telling us in symbols which
nations will be judged as worthy to remain in Kingdom Come, and which nations
will be pruned out. Even now there’s a separating
of nations going forth. We marvel
that the original word used for “nations” in Matthew 25:32 is
eqnoi, from which we get the phrase
“ethnic group.” “Ethnic” in English relates “to a sizable group of people of a
common race, nation, religion, language or culture.”
In the last ten or
twelve years, more new nations have been created from ethnic people-groups than
ever before. Take for example the
eastern European nations of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Greece. These larger countries have recently broken
down into much smaller sovereign states like Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia,
Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic – all
these new nations were established around ethnic lineage and cultural
similarity. If we go further east, we
find the Soviet Union broken up into countless states along ethnic and
religious lines. So we find here
another clue about the timing of the “sheep and goats judgment” -- we
know it’s already beginning when we see nations splitting up and reforming around
ethnic identity. Undoubtedly,
this breaking and reforming of nations is a sign of the Son of Man’s coming to
separate the sheep from goat nations.
This sign is as plain as day for anyone to see but the blind and
apathetic. And it’s happening in preparation
for a worldwide, political judgment.
The criteria for
this judgment of nations are found in Matthew 25:35. Yahweh allows certain nations and authorities to be in charge under
the strict condition that they provide basic human services – food, water,
clothing, medical care – even civilized imprisonment for convicts. Goat nations that don’t provide these basic
rights to their flocks are in danger of being pruned off. So the princes and rulers of nations, and
the nations or people-groups themselves, will be judged, those found wanting
will go into “eternal punishment” (v. 46) according to some translations. A better translation might be that the goat
nations will endure (literally) an “eon of restraint” or “of pruning” (kolasin,
25:46). A couple of good translations
have the goat nations going
"into a long
correction" (Rotherham and SEV). This judgment, like all judgments of Yahweh, will entail equitable
justice, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Fat Sheep and Thin Sheep
After nations and
ethnic groups, sheep and goats, judgment goes forward among the sheep. In Ezekiel 34:20, “Yahweh the master says this: ‘I myself shall judge between the fat
sheep and the thin sheep.’”
Maybe you read George Orwell’s novel Animal
Farm. The farmer exploits the
animals, so they organize and take over the farm. The pigs, being the most opportunistic, take charge and set up
rules so that all animals might have equal rights. The pigs use the dogs to enforce the rules. But pigs being pigs, they soon get a taste
for whisky and spend all the farm profit on it, leaving some animals in
worse condition than when the cruel farmer was there. The other animals want whisky too, even though they don’t know
what it is. They just heard the
pigs have it and they don’t. There’s a
protest for equal rights – ducks, horses, chickens and sheep against the pigs
and dogs. Then the main pig, Napoleon,
makes what has become a famous speech to reassure the animals of their
equality; he says, yes, “all
animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” This philosophy legitimizes selfishness and
privilege. Yet among human pigs, goats
and fat sheep, being a little “more equal” is a philosophy of life.
Those fat sheep got fat by exploiting
the lack of those less equal, got fat because they were more privileged or more
lucky or higher-born than others. They,
too, will be judged, and go into a period of correction and punishment in
Kingdom Come. Yahweh admonishes the fat
34:21,22) Since you have jostled and butted and horned and scattered the ailing
sheep, I shall come and stop you from victimizing them.
These words might
remind us that we’re under the commandment of the Golden Rule, the most
familiar version of it goes like this:
all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to
them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
Yahshua says that in
this rule one finds “the law and prophets.”
However, we sheep can go beyond the Golden to “The Platinum Rule,” which
states: “Do unto others as they want to be done unto.” That’s easier to remember. Fulfilling the Platinum Rule will keep you
from becoming a “fat sheep.” Be fair,
treat fairly, and you’ll be judged fairly in your day of crisis (kriseV = judgment).
Individual Judgment and Restoration
trickles down from shepherd to goat to ram to fat sheep, then to the
individual, for Yahweh concludes by telling us, “I shall judge between sheep and sheep” (17). Yahweh is the district attorney and the Son of Man is both judge
and defense attorney. Everyone who ever
lived will come before the bar of stern judgment. Yahshua warns the world,
5:28 “The time is coming when everyone in the graves will hear the voice of the
Son of Yahweh and will come out. Those who lived right will rise to life, but
those who did evil will rise for judgment.”
This scripture and
many others put to rest the idea that when a person dies, he simply goes
straight to hell to burn forever. If
Yahweh is just and truthful, then he will fulfill his promise and bring back
the dead to judgment. The Revelator
saw it all happen in his vision; he testifies:
12. I saw the dead, great and small, standing in front of his throne while the
books lay open. The dead were judged from what was written in the books, as
If one’s actions
while living this life don’t measure up to the rules set by the Son of Man,
there will be punishment meted out to fit the crime. A lot of folks say that they’ll worry about that then, if it
happens at all. Or at least they’ll
have plenty of friends in hell. But
smart folks know to play it safe. For
Scripture says, in that day, “Who will be able to stand?” Our Elohim is love, but love is always just;
and in the end, the evil one will pay dearly, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a
tooth. If you’ve plucked either now,
you will be plucked then.
Personally, I prefer to be judged in
this life rather than in the next.
My fate in the World Tomorrow is too important to leave to chance. I want to know how I’ll come out ahead of
time. I want to plan for eternity,
because, though prospects haven’t been that good for me and people like me in
this life, in the resurrection, my prospects are very good. Yahweh will definitely be looking for me as
one of his lost sheep because I have a little land there that Yahshua
bought for me with his life. I lay
claim to it. Yahweh plainly promises to
look after my claim on that pastureland as one of his sheep. He says:
Ezekiel 34:13 – 30 exc. “I shall look for the lost one [that’s me]
and the one straying [maybe that’s you].
I shall be a true shepherd. I shall bring them back to their own land,
declares the Master Yahweh.”
If I’m one of his, I’ll enjoy the Land of
Corn and Wine because I believe that Yahshua (Yahshua) came here to rescue
(shua) me from the crisis of Yahweh’s judgment and wrath. Man, I’m not about to take my chances at the
Great White Throne Judgment. I think
I’m a good boy, but not good enough to get away with anything before the awful
throne. So I claim the promise of the
Son of Yahweh in regards to my defense on that day. He said,
5:24 "In most solemn truth I tell
you that he who listens to my teaching and believes Him who sent me, has the
Life of the Ages, and does not come under judgment, but has passed over out of
death into Life” (Weymouth's New Testament).
Now, that’s the greatest promise in the
Bible – a goat can become a sheep and bypass judgment entirely, acquiring the
“life of the ages.” The conditions are
that a person (1) hear the teaching of Yahshua enough to actually keep his
commandments, then (2) believe in him enough to be assured of his power to
plead one’s case. If you’re guilty but
have a good advocate (paraklhtoV), you do what he says and except a plea
bargain. Chances are good that you’ll
get the best possible deal. And by the
way, it doesn’t hurt if your defense attorney is also the judge, now does it?
SO let’s go back to the initial question: “If Elohim’s good and
all-powerful, why does he allow such evil in the world? Why doesn’t he do something?” In a nutshell, “Why doesn’t Elohim JUDGE?”
You studied Shakespeare
in High School. Remember The
Merchant of Venice? Shylock wants
justice – a pound of Antonio’s flesh.
Portia judges the case and awards Shylock exactly what he stipulates;
Shylock must cut out a pound of flesh from poor Antonio, but exactly a pound,
and no blood, only flesh. If blood is
spilled in gaining the pound, Shylock must pay with his own blood. How does one get a pound of flesh without
spilling blood? How does one get
justice without himself paying? Like
most people, Shylock thinks that Yahweh’s justice will be to his profit,
but finds himself at great risk in the end.
When people say, “Why does Elohim allow this?” they don’t take into
consideration what justice demands: that they, too, might have to pay.
Many today refuse
to keep the commandments of Yahshua, but demand that Elohim take a pound of flesh;
that is, correct all the wrongs of society – war, famine, racism, disease,
poverty, persecution, abuse and terrorism.
They insist that Yahweh’s existence is at question if he withholds
judgment. Do they realize that to end
all trouble the Almighty puts an end to all troublemakers? Many of those who demand justice from Yahweh
will be on the paying end when justice comes. Is that what they really want?
Will those who clamor for justice be ready for personal judgment? No they won’t. Their punishment will fit their crimes – an eye for an eye, a
tooth for a tooth.
is on the way; we see its signs plainer every single day. Some of you need to get assurance insurance
before its too late. You’re on trial
for your life! You need a pre-paid
legal plan! You need to surrender to
your attorney and start doing what he says now before it’s too late to
make the deal. But you’re scared of
and you’ve just been hanging around church enough to think you might win you
some points. Well, I hope you’re
right. But as a Master of Divinity, I
can advise you that odds are 100 to 1 against that notion. You don’t want to face Yahweh in your filthy
rags, do you? It’s a fearful thing to
fall into the hands of an angry Elohim.
It’s time to get out of those rags and put on a wool suit, like a sheep,
and step through the sheep gate. Yahshua is
the sheep gate.
You could die any
day now and you know it; everybody around here is sick and we’re all dying by
degrees. Are you that big of a gambler
to risk eternity? Do you think you
won’t have to pay? Then you’re a
fool. You don’t dare go any
longer. Today, you make your decision;
today you convert; today is your day of judgment so that when the evil day arrives,
you’ll be able to stand.