• PhilipZ

Day 147

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 -


I have struggled with whether or not to mention my initial thoughts on reading Ezekiel 34. I know the chapter is prophetic, and I know it is addressing the shepherds of Israel (v. 2) who are busy feeding themselves rather than shepherding and feeding their flock. And there is no doubt verses 11 through 13 are referring to the restoration of the nation of Israel and gathering of the Jews. Yet I could also not help but contemplate that we as believers are grafted into the branch of David (Romans 11:17). And today, in the church we also refer to pastors shepherding their flock. But here, the shepherds are only thinking of themselves. They are too busy feeding themselves (v. 3). But, “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased, you have not healed, the broken, you have not bound up, the scattered, you have not brought back, nor have you sought the lost, but with force and severity, you have dominated them” (v. 4). Ouch. This could probably apply to a lot of modern-day pastors. “The shepherds feed themselves and did not feed my flock,” the Lord reiterates in verse 8. So, “thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am against shepherds, and I shall demand any sheep from them and make them cease feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I shall deliver My flock from their mouth, that they may not be food for them” (v. 10).


The rest of the chapter goes on about how God will bless these sheep, even though they will be hiding out in the mountains, sleeping in the wilderness.

I then thought about the perilous times Jesus speaks about in Matthew 24, where He says those in Judea will have to flee to the mountains. And if Isaiah 34 is referring to the Jews, we know that by reading verse 23 that they will have embraced, by this time, Jesus as Messiah. Or again, was Ezekiel, and Jesus for that matter, addressing the church as a whole of believers in Christ – Jews and we who are grafted in?


And then the thought occurred to me, especially where God says, “I will feed My flock and lead them to rest” (v. 15) rather than the shepherds, that the most rapid church growth today is happening in places where there are no seminary-trained pastors, house churches meet in secret in places like China, Iran, and Arab nations. The gospel is spreading like wildfire today in these places, and others under God’s sovereign leadership. In India, rapid church growth is carried about by planting house churches.


Even here in the United States, home groups and house churches often using the model of the first-century church described in Acts, have become very prevalent. Even mega-church pastor Francis Chan gave up his pastorate to begin a house church movement, patterned after the church in Acts, in the San Francisco area. Read his book, Letters to the Church. For decades, I have felt the American church model, based more on consumerism with large churches, does not adequately disciple believers and spread the gospel as God intends. People have gotten just too comfortable with their one or two-hour service every Sunday, with no other accountability nor fellowship. God wants more of and from His people. I may be misinterpreting this passage, I don’t know, but it is worth contemplating that perhaps God is calling for us in the West to revert to the example of the church growth we find in the book of Acts. Very soon we may be forced into it if we must flee to the mountains as Christ foretold and Ezekiel predicted.


I have struggled with whether or not to mention my initial thoughts on reading Ezekiel 34. I know the chapter is prophetic, and I know it is addressing the shepherds of Israel (v. 2) who are busy feeding themselves rather than shepherding and feeding their flock. And there is no doubt verses 11 through 13 are referring to the restoration of the nation of Israel and gathering of the Jews. Yet I could also not help but contemplate that we as believers are grafted into the branch of David (Romans 11:17). And today, in the church we also refer to pastors shepherding their flock. But here, the shepherds are only thinking of themselves. They are too busy feeding themselves (v. 3). But, “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased, you have not healed, the broken, you have not bound up, the scattered, you have not brought back, nor have you sought the lost, but with force and severity, you have dominated them” (v. 4). Ouch. This could probably apply to a lot of modern-day pastors. “The shepherds feed themselves and did not feed my flock,” the Lord reiterates in verse 8. So, “thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am against shepherds, and I shall demand any sheep from them and make them cease feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I shall deliver My flock from their mouth, that they may not be food for them” (v. 10).


The rest of the chapter goes on about how God will bless these sheep, even though they will be hiding out in the mountains, sleeping in the wilderness.

I then thought about the perilous times Jesus speaks about in Matthew 24, where He says those in Judea will have to flee to the mountains. And if Isaiah 34 is referring to the Jews, we know that by reading verse 23 that they will have embraced, by this time, Jesus as Messiah. Or again, was Ezekiel, and Jesus for that matter, addressing the church as a whole of believers in Christ – Jews and we who are grafted in?


And then the thought occurred to me, especially where God says, “I will feed My flock and lead them to rest” (v. 15) rather than the shepherds, that the most rapid church growth today is happening in places where there are no seminary-trained pastors, house churches meet in secret in places like China, Iran, and Arab nations. The gospel is spreading like wildfire today in these places, and others under God’s sovereign leadership. In India, rapid church growth is carried about by planting house churches.


Even here in the United States, home groups and house churches often using the model of the first-century church described in Acts, have become very prevalent. Even mega-church pastor Francis Chan gave up his pastorate to begin a house church movement, patterned after the church in Acts, in the San Francisco area. Read his book, Letters to the Church. For decades, I have felt the American church model, based more on consumerism with large churches, does not adequately disciple believers and spread the gospel as God intends. People have gotten just too comfortable with their one or two-hour service every Sunday, with no other accountability nor fellowship. God wants more of and from His people. I may be misinterpreting this passage, I don’t know, but it is worth contemplating that perhaps God is calling for us in the West to revert to the example of the church growth we find in the book of Acts. Very soon we may be forced into it if we must flee to the mountains as Christ foretold and Ezekiel predicted.

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