Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Shepherd travelling with his flock through a tank graveyard on the outskirts of Kabul. Photo by John Zada, 2008.
And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
— Ezekiel 34:1-2
Following the judgments against both Judah and the surrounding gentile nations for sins of the past, Ezekiel turns now towards the future, prophesying of what is to come for the new nation of Israel. His prophecies of hope and salvation however are still tinged with judgment on current behaviour, as we see here.
The shepherd metaphor appears throughout both the old and new testaments, for good reason. Many earned their living this way, and most could quickly understand and appreciate the likeness of the leaders of sheep to the leaders of men. All living creatures have essentially the same needs. The shepherds of Israel, the kings, priests and city elders had failed their flock, had lined their pockets and their stomaches while many struggled with hunger and poverty, had focused on short-term gain for self over long-term benefit for all of God's people. Ezekiel calls them to task with the rhetorical question should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Well, yes, of course they should.
As leaders of men we must put the needs of others before our own needs, pay attention to the voice of the people. This is not to say we neglect the self, but take care only to the minimum extent, to allow us to be of the best service. If we neglect the voice of the people we create unrest, and if we blithely abuse our position of power we stir anger. In comparing leaders with shepherds we also get the stark reminder that we often treat our animals better than we treat our citizens, our employees, sometimes even our own families.