Easter 4 – April 17, 2016
Ezekiel 34:25-31 – Pastor Don Ninmer
Do you believe in miracles? You do? Well, I do too. In case there is someone here who does not believe in miracles, let me share with you one that I recently heard about. There was a man, a pretty old man, about 75 years old. He had a heart problem – a bad tricuspid valve. The doctor said that only a skilled surgeon, one who was trained in complicated surgeries, could operate on him. So they sent him to some far off place down south for surgery. The surgery lasted for six and one half hours, but the old man survived. He came home after 8 days. He started cardiac rehab and set it as his goal to preach again. Do you believe in miracles? If any of you should ever doubt the power of God, we hope that this old man can be a lesson for you.
For our sermon text today I was going to use the passage: The prayers of a bunch of people do a heap of good. But I could not find that in the Bible, The prayers of a bunch of people do a heap of good. So then I decided it would be best to use our text for today from the Book of Ezekiel. Pastor Frey has read that lesson. To that reading I would like to add the verses that come before out text: I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken. (34:22-24)
Here Ezekiel talks about a greater Shepherd that was going to come to Israel. This shepherd would gather the lost sheep of Israel and provide them with a wonderful home. If you look at the situation that Israel was in at that time, you would have to say that if that shepherd could do that, it would be a miracle. Do you believe in miracles? Listen to God’s promises in our text.
The writer of our text is a man named Ezekiel. We are told that he was not trained to be a prophet. He lived during the time of the fall of Jerusalem and the time when many of the Israelites were taken into slavery in Babylon. That took place around 600 years before Christ was born. You might want to make note of that: it was 600 years before Christ would be born.
About 5 years later Ezekiel saw a vision and was called by the Lord to be a prophet. That vision is described in chapter one: You might want to read through it on your own. It is too long for us to read today. We do hear in chapter 2: He said to me, son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you. As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. He said: Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me. (2:1-3)
You see, that is the reason that they were carried into slavery. That is the reason that they had to leave their homes and occupations. That is the reason that the temple was destroyed – they forgot about God, what is worse they rebelled against God and their religious and political leaders did nothing to prevent it. To those leaders Ezekiel said: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?
It is then that Ezekiel says: I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.
Ezekiel preached for 22 years. Most of the people ignored him. He warned them about the spiritual situation that they were living in. But he also brought them a message of comfort. In spite of all the things that had gone on, in spite of their frequent rebellions against God, He had not forgotten about them. He would deliver them.
His promise of deliverance was two-fold. First of all God promised what we call “the restoration.” That means that He promised to return them to their homeland in the future. Notice how he describes it in our text. There are many words and expressions that describe this deliverance: I will make a covenant of peace…I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing…I will send down showers in season…the trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops…the people will be secure in the land…they will no longer be plundered by the nations…I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations…then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people. Then at the end He adds: You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.
This all sounds good – live in a perfect country, in a perfect world. Did they ever see the fullness of this promise? The answer is, No. They forgot about God in the land of Israel when they returned and then finally crucified the Savior. So God must have had another deliverance in mind. That is clearly seen when He says: I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered…I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. He is talking about the blessings that they could have enjoyed when they returned to their homeland. He is also talking about the blessings that believers will receive in their homeland, heaven.
God would send the great deliverer – the great shepherd. He calls Him David. We know why. Scripture emphasizes that Jesus is the descendent of the great King David. In one instance we are told: As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, Have mercy on us, Son of David. In Psalm 89 we read: I have sworn to David my servant, I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations. In Isaiah’s famous Christmas prophecy he says of Jesus: He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
He is talking about Jesus, the son of David. Ezekiel simply calls him “David.” He is the great shepherd of Israel. He is our Shepherd. He is the one that brings true happiness and peace with God. He is the one who accomplished the greatest miracle of all time. He took us lost and condemned sinners, living in the foreign land of sin, and brought us into His Kingdom. Now we are still living in this sinful world. But the time is coming when He will lead us into His eternal Kingdom to enjoy all the things that Ezekiel talks about: peace…safety…blessing…security…no longer be plundered…they will no longer be victims of famine…then they will know that I the Lord their God am, with them.
That is what John is talking about in the Book of Revelation when he writes: They are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd. Do you believe in miracles? This is the greatest miracle of all time. Those of us who are by nature lost and condemned sinners now have God’s promise of that wonderful place that we call heaven.
Is that not also the purpose of Christian education? We want our children to learn about Jesus the good Shepherd. We want them to know that He died for them and has prepared a place for them in heaven. We want to share eternity with them and with Jesus. There we will experience what Jesus is talking about in the Gospel of John: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. Do you believe in miracles?