317 - The Watchman’s Warnings and Promises (Ezekiel 33–35)
No matter how good they might be, human leaders and governments will eventually fail us. While they are to be respected and honored, our faith must be in Christ alone. Only He is sufficient to provide all that we will ever need.
The Watchman’s Warnings . . . and Promises
The dark night of divine judgment presented in the first thirty-two chapters of Ezekiel is about to give way to a bright new day of divine promises. And the turning point is here at chapter 33. The focus of chapter 33 is actually on the prophet, Ezekiel. The chapter begins by restating two themes that were introduced earlier in the book.
Back in chapter 3, Ezekiel was described as a watchman for the house of Israel, on the lookout for danger. Now, here in chapter 33, God speaks to Ezekiel, reaffirming the prophet’s role as a watchman:
“You, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.” (verse 7)
With the beginning of a new era after Jerusalem’s destruction, Ezekiel must continue to present divine warnings to the people.
The second theme that is repeated is that of personal responsibility—a truth that was presented at length back in chapter 18. Each person is judged by God on the basis of his or her sin alone. The Lord says in verse 20, “I will judge each of you according to his ways.”
So, this is Ezekiel’s role, and it has not changed. He is to warn the people of their sin, remind them they are accountable to God, and call them to repentance.
The remarkable fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecies about Jerusalem are confirmed in verse 21, where Ezekiel says, “A fugitive from Jerusalem came to me and said, ‘The city has been struck down.’” What do you know? His prophecy came to pass—even though nobody had believed him. Jerusalem is finally destroyed.
Although his prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem were fulfilled, there are still some survivors remaining in Judah who are insisting they still have a right to the land. Apparently, they believe they have been left there to possess the land, even as they continue living like they have been living.
They are arguing that if God gave the land to Abraham—just one man—then they would surely possess it since there are many of them. They are basing their argument on God’s covenant promise to Abraham. But listen to the Lord’s rebuke in verses 25-26:
“Lift up your eyes to your idols and shed blood; shall you then possess the land? You rely on the sword, you commit abominations, and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife; shall you then possess the land?”
In other words, He’s saying, “Why do you think you can enjoy God’s blessing while worshiping idols, committing adultery, and killing innocent people?”
Now we need to understand that Abraham’s descendants, in fact, will possess the land one day, according to God’s unconditional promise. But in the meantime, their removal from the land at this particular time is a result of their national defiance against God’s law (Leviticus 26:27-33).
These people who remain in the land after the fall of Jerusalem are continuing in their sinful ways, and the Lord says they are going to die in judgment. God says to them here in verse 29:
“Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I have made the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations that they have committed.”
The Lord also has a message for Ezekiel concerning the exiles who are with him there in Babylon. He tells His prophet in verse 31, “[The people] . . . hear what you say but they will not do it.”
They will gladly hear his prophecies of comfort and hope, but the fulfillment of these prophecies is far off in the future. They are not going to personally enjoy these promises because they will continue in disobedience. However, there is coming a time, verse 33 says, when the people of Israel “will know that a prophet has been among them.”
Maybe you have been preaching or teaching God’s Word and hearts have remained hardened and closed against the truth. Who knows? Perhaps in the future, God will open the eyes and hearts of some of those people, and they will say something similar about you: “Well, what do you know? My Sunday school teacher [or pastor] was telling me the truth all along.”
In Ezekiel 34, the focus shifts from God’s prophet Ezekiel to Israel’s leaders. In verse 2, Ezekiel is told to prophesy against “the shepherds of Israel.” This refers to the nation’s leaders. Kings are primarily in view here, although the term could refer to priests and prophets as well.
Like shepherds, these leaders should have been feeding and caring for the flock of God. Instead, they were concerned with feeding themselves. That happens to this day, beloved. False teachers and leaders are not feeding the sheep; they are fleecing the sheep.
Listen to the Lord’s condemnation of them in verses 4 and 5:
“The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.”
Because they have failed as God’s appointed shepherds of His people, the Lord declares in verse 10, “I am against the shepherds.” Then He says, “I will rescue my sheep from their mouths.”
What a tragic thing it is when sheep have to be rescued from shepherds who mistreat them and mislead them.
What follows in chapter 34 is a wonderful prophecy of Israel’s future restoration under another “Shepherd.” Listen to what the Lord promises Israel:
- “I … will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel.” (verse 13)
- “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep.” (verse 15)
- “I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.” (verse 16)
And that’s not all. Once Israel is reestablished in their land, the Lord says in verses 23-24:
“I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David . . . he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I . . . will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them.”
This looks to a day yet future when Jesus Christ returns to establish His earthly kingdom for a thousand years. God’s appointed shepherd is David.
David is mentioned in other passages related to the future millennial reign of the Messiah (See Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 37:24-25; Hosea 3:5). Many interpreters believe God actually will appoint David as the prince of Jerusalem, under King Jesus. Others take “David” here as reference to Jesus, the descendant of King David.
What we do know is in this future millennial kingdom, when Christ reigns over all the earth, Israel will trust Him as their Messiah. The land of Israel will be fruitful, and the people will prosper. Verse 28 says, “They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid.”
Chapter 35 concludes this section with a focus on the enemy of Israel—specifically Edom. God’s judgment on this nation has already been announced back in chapter 25. It is reiterated here, perhaps because Edom represents all the nations that opposed Israel.
Verse 5 tells us Edom “cherished perpetual enmity” toward Israel. This involved, not only military opposition, but also “revilings . . . uttered against the mountains of Israel” (verse 12). They hated Israel and rejoiced over the destruction of Jerusalem. They will face the judgment of God, along with every other nation that has reviled Israel and her Messiah.
These prophecies have lessons for us today. They remind us to listen to God’s warnings in His Word. They also ask us this very personal question: Who is your shepherd today? That is, who are you following? Make sure it is none other than the true Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.
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