Shepherds, Hear the Word of the Lord

Ezekiel 33:1-9:

When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head.  Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head.  If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself.  But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.

Pastors and all those who see the truth, but do not speak a word of warning, will be accountable for the blood of the lost.  Paul said in Acts 20:22-31:

I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men.  For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.  Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

Paul’s warning applies to all congregations, all churches, and all synods.  Be on your guard!  Open your eyes!  Wake up!  Any group of believers that acts like it is immune from false doctrine is not holding to the above words of Scripture.  To the Scriptures!  Alarm!

Hear the word of the Lord:

Woe to the shepherds of Israel who take care of only themselves!  Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.  You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured.  You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.  You have ruled them harshly and brutally.  So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.  My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill.  They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.  [Ezekiel 34:1-6].

When a pastor does not strengthen the weak or heal the sick or bind up the injured, it means that that shepherd does not administer the Gospel.  The sheep do not need a cowboy or a self-help shepherd who thinks it is his prerogative to live off the sheep and treat them like his chattel.  Because they did not hear the Gospel, and because they were driven instead of led, the flock has become spiritually scattered.  Instead of feeding at Calvary, they feed on every other high hill of false spirits and false doctrine.

The shepherds were lazy.  Not only did they not guide the flock with the true Law, they did not administer the healing balm of the Gospel.  They were too lazy to study the word of God, and too deceitful to even write their own sermons.

The unfaithful shepherds chased after false prophets, followed them to their conferences, sat at their feet, and lusted for their earthly success.  They said, “The wolves are successful:  We can learn from them, and ourselves become fat at the expense of the flock.”

Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock.  [Ezekiel 34:7-10].


In John 10:11-21, Jesus said:

I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep.  So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.  Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

If a shepherd is not willing to lay down his life for the sheep, or if he thinks the flock exists for his benefit; then he is not a good shepherd.  Instead, he is the hireling who runs away.  Or even worse, he is the wolf who, instead of living for the flock, lives off the flock.

Who said it would be easy to be a good shepherd?  How many heroes of faith lived to an old age and died in peace?  How many shepherds fought with wolves and came away unscathed?  (1 Corinthians 15:32).  Not very many.

They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword.  They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them.  They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.  [Hebrews 11:37-38].

“Remember the words I spoke to you:  ‘No servant is greater than his master.'”  (John 15:20).  “Father, forgive them …”  (Luke 23:34).  “Forgive us …”  (Luke 11:4).


Notes:  Emphasis added to all quotes.


4 thoughts on “Shepherds, Hear the Word of the Lord

  1. Rick,

    I came across these verses again in my sermon study for last Sunday.

    “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. ‘They will be mine,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not'” (Malachi 3:16-18).

  2. Pastor Rydecki,

    Those are good verses. Daily, I find myself longing for Christ’s return, and am reminded of this hymn:

    The Church’s one foundation
    Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
    She is his new creation
    By water and the word;
    From heaven he came and sought her
    To be his holy bride;
    With his own blood he bought her,
    And for her life he died.

    Though with a scornful wonder
    Men see her sore oppressed,
    By schisms rent asunder,
    By heresies distressed;
    Yet saints their watch are keeping,
    Their cry goes up, “How long?”
    And soon the night of weeping
    Shall be the morn of song.

    Those verses seem appropriate for Advent.

    God’s blessings.

  3. From the other side of the world, I sense that there is a crisis happening in the WELS in regard to Lutheran identity and that this post speaks from out of that crisis, Ric.

    When an orthodox church is afflicted in this way, I sometimes turn things around, and almost view it as a mark of the subsistence of the true church in that particular church body – that it suffers from attacks on its pure doctrine means that it is dangerous enough to the evil one to still be a target. Luther says something like this somewhere – alas, no time to look it up now.

  4. Mark,

    Because the Church follows in the Way of her Master, she will be sore oppressed. We follow his path to His cross. That is what makes the church Growth Movement and its attendant temptations of worldly success so dangerous: We fool ourselves into thinking we are doing something successful for God, when in reality we are merely building an earthly kingdom. The Word of God alone is our life, our strength, and our success.

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