An obedient prophet—Ezekiel
Reprobate sinners—sinful people of Judah;
Disobedient overseers—shepherds/leaders of Israel who were not properly leading their sheep;
The story has been told of three sisters who lived together.
Three sisters, ages 92, 94, and 96, live in a house together. One night the 96-year-old draws a bath. She puts one foot in and pauses. She yells down the stairs, “Was I getting in or out of the bath?” The 94-year-old yells back, “I don’t know. I’ll come up and see.” She starts up the stairs and pauses. Then she yells out, “Was I going up the stairs or down?” The 92-year-old is sitting at the kitchen table having tea and listening to her sisters. She shakes her head and says, “I sure hope I never get that forgetful.” She knocks on wood for good measure. She then replies, “I’ll come up and help both of you as soon as I see who’s at the door.” ¹
While these three sisters can’t remember very well, they still want to help each other. They want to live in peace and harmony with each other. They want to serve each other.
In the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel, we see three people groups mingling and occupying the banks of the Chebar River during the Babylonian captivity: an obedient prophet, reprobate sinners and disobedient leaders. Unfortunately, they were NOT attempting to live harmoniously at all, like the sisters were above.
Historical Fact: The Babylonian Empire exerted influence over Judah. In 586 BC, they destroyed Jerusalem.
Ezekiel tries to lead the people in a godly manner. The sinners are living in the depths of depravity. Likewise, the disobedient leaders are living merely for themselves and for their pleasures.
Ezekiel: An Obedient Prophet
Wouldn’t it be nice to be so attuned to God that we would hear the word of the LORD come to us daily? Many leaders in the Bible were obedient to the voice of God; others not so. Some obeyed for a while and then retreated into sin.
The prophet Ezekiel was an obedient leader! Over and over in the Book of Ezekiel, we read, “And the word of the LORD came to me” or “The word of the LORD came again to me saying.” And he obeyed every time God told him to do something, no matter how bizarre it seemed.
In Ezekiel 33:7, Ezekiel is appointed to be a watchman for the house of Israel to give the people a warning. Ezekiel, as a spiritual leader, proceeds to warn the people of their sin and the upcoming prophecy of Jerusalem’s capture.
He lays out what happens when a group of people are not being led in the way of righteousness, like what was happening in Judah at the time: Babylonian leaders were threatening to overtake the people of Judah.
Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem during the second deportation of the Jews in 597 B.C.—one year before Jerusalem was conquered by the Chaldeans. This important time period occurred when many Jews were taken captive and similarly exiled by King Nebuchadnezzar II.
While the nation of Judah had sunk deep into sin, Ezekiel was called and commissioned by God to prophesize to an ungodly people about their many sins—idolatry, apostasy, and wickedness. Ezekiel’s boldness and dedication to the LORD gave him the power to predict the siege of Jerusalem, denounce idolatrous worship, lament over cities, and predict judgment. He was the instrument God chose to declare His verdict and reaffirm an individual’s responsibility to obey the Lord. Towards the end of the book, he joyfully shares about Israel’s eventual restoration and the glory which will fill God’s temple.
Historical Trivia: Sometimes the term “Chaldeans” is used to refer to Babylonians in general, but normally it refers to a specific semi-nomadic tribe that lived in the southern part of Babylon. ²
Historical Trivia: The House of Israel and The House of Judah are NOT the same people. Both are parts of the nation of Israel but reflect the division of the country into two different Kingdoms. Bible prophecies tell us that [the] Messiah will rule over a restored Kingdom during His millennial reign, as King David ruled over both Houses during his own tenure. ³
I’ve always thought of Ezekiel as my kind of prophet—he’s flamboyant and colorful. He wails, slaps his thighs, and has visions of dry bones. But his obedience to God’s call and willingness to do whatever God asks of him is what impresses me the most.
Sinners: Reprobates from the House of Judah, Including the Capital City of Jerusalem;
Ezekiel 16 catalogues the sins of the people of Jerusalem. Many of the people were trusting in their personal beauty, and out of this hubris became prostitutes. They had sex with everyone who walked by. They took the gold and silver that the LORD had given them and out of it made idols for themselves. They covered their idols with embroidered clothes and offered God’s olive oil and incense in their presence. They similarly pledged all the fragrances and food that God had given them as well. They sacrificed their sons and daughters to their idols as sustenance. They had sex with the Assyrians, but they still weren’t satisfied, so they had sex with land merchants and the Babylonians (Ezekiel 16:15-34).
Leaders: Disobedient Overseers
Ezekiel warned the leaders as to what will happen if the people continued in sin due to a lack of leadership. Those in charge have a responsibility to lead their flock ethically no matter where they find themselves—in the workplace or in ministry. The overseers of the people were all about themselves: they became a stumbling block of iniquity to the House of Israel. They followed their idols far from God, thereby rendering them unable to lead the people. God’s desire was for them to be ashamed of their transgressions, but they weren’t (Ezekiel 43:10).
The leaders at that time were going to be punished for their sins. Leaders have a great responsibility to their people, as do ministers have towards their “sheep”—those that they have been given responsibility to lead within their churches or ministries. In each case, there will come a time when God says, “enough of all your abominations, because judgment will come!” (See Ezekiel 44).
What Happens To The People When Leaders “Run Amok?”
- People sin. (Ezekiel 7:1-19)
- The leaders feed themselves instead of “their flock.” (Ezekiel 34:2)
- The sickly aren’t strengthened. (Ezekiel 34:4)
- The diseased are not healed. (Ezekiel 34:4)
- The broken are not bound up. (Ezekiel 34:4)
- The scattered have not brought back. (Ezekiel 34:4)
- The lost have not been sought. (Ezekiel 34:4)
- The leader dominates with force and severity. (Ezekiel 34:4)
- The people are scattered for lack of a shepherd. (Ezekiel 34:5)
- The shepherd leader feeds himself and does not care for, or search for, their lost sheep. (Ezekiel 34:8)
And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to them, the [spiritual] shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe (judgment is coming) to the [spiritual] shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat [the choicest of meat], and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the best of the livestock, but you do not feed the flock. You have not strengthened those who are weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bandaged the crippled, you have not brought back those gone astray, you have not looked for the lost; but you have ruled them with force and violence. They were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered, they became food for all the predators of the field. My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the face of the earth and no one searched or sought them.”’”
Therefore, you [spiritual] shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: “As I live,” says the Lord God, “certainly because My flock has become prey, My flock has even become food for every predator of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock; therefore, you [spiritual] shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My flock from them and make them stop tending the flock, so that the shepherds cannot feed themselves anymore. I will rescue My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them”’” (Ezekiel 34:1-10 AMP).
Application to Leaders Today
The Drudge Report posted an article on January 15th, 2019 titled, “Staff at a Chinese company are forced to CRAWL on the street after ‘failing to hit their annual targets’” The article mentioned that a group of female beauty company employees were made to crawl on their hands and knees through busy afternoon traffic in Zengzhou, China for failing to meet their company sales target. ⁴ I would classify their boss/leader as an uncouth, mean person. His flock wasn’t being led, or, to use a Christian term “fed” in an appropriate way.
The word of the LORD came to Ezekiel saying, “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people, and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming upon the land, and he blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head.’” (Ezekiel 33:2-4).
We can extend Ezekiel’s analogy to all venues where leadership is established. Leaders such as CEOs, political leaders, teachers, pastors, prophets, and evangelists are put in the position of either following the Lord’s guidance in this area, or suffering the consequences.
Whatever God does with wicked individuals, leaders or nations, He is always generous in extending grace. His final goal is always the same, both then and now: God declares twenty times in the Book of Ezekiel that “they will know that I am the Lord.”
When the leaders didn’t do “their job”, God eventually stepped in Himself to restore Israel. God said, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out . . . I will feed My flock and lead them to rest . . . I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment.” (Ezekiel 34:16)
No matter what kind of leader you are, obey God as Ezekiel did.
If you are in a leadership position, most likely you will not be carrying out a public humiliation upon your employees or congregants or forcing them to slap themselves in the face 100 times (which occurred recently in China), but you must remember you are accountable to God for how you treat people.
In the three sisters story above, the sisters were not fully able to remember each other’s call for help, but their love for each other was evident. That’s how God’s love for us is: let’s commit to obey Him and serve His people in whatever situation we find ourselves.
If you are not a believer, consider the love that Christ has for you and how you can be part of the Kingdom of God by accepting Him as your Lord and Savior.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22)
Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; (1 Peter 5:2)
So, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
For the LORD will judge His people and will have compassion on His servants. (Psalm 135:14)
My heavenly Father, with all my heart, I desire to do Your will. Give me the courage of Ezekiel, the strength to remain strong in You, and to lead in a way that is honorable to You. Steer me away from all things which can send me astray. Prune me so I can serve You more and more each day.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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To read more about leadership, check out the following article.
https://greenepastures.org/leadership-part-1-nehemiah/ (From this blog, you can link to Leadership Part 2-Nehemiah)
¹ “Unjokes #1002.” Jan 17, 2019. Web. Unjokes.com.
³ “Are the House of Israel and The House of Judah the same people?” Blog Post WordPress. Bible Insights from Jerry. 17 Jan 2019. Web. https://bibleinsightsfromjerry.wordpress.com.
⁴ You, Tracy. “Staff at Chinese company are forced to CRAWL on the street after ‘failing to hit their annual targets.”’ Drudge Report: Daily Mail. 15 Jan 2019. Web. www.DrudgeReport.com.
“Ezekiel.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Web. Jan 16, 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezekiel.
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